Colombia town reports mystery illness in 200 girls but psychogenic illness suspected

This is what looks to be a textbook case of mass psychogenic illness (crudely known as “mass hysteria”). It is extremely common in schools, the symptoms are vague and non-life threatening and can be psychogenic. The cause is always suspected to be an environmental or medical factor. In this case, the fear of the moment is the Gardasil vaccine.

Girls in Colombian Town Struck by Mystery Illness.

A mystery illness has overwhelmed a small town in northern Colombia as scores of teenage girls have been hospitalized with symptoms that parents fear could be an adverse reaction to a popular vaccine against cervical cancer.

Authorities say they still don’t know what caused more than 200 girls in El Carmen de Bolivar to come down with symptoms ranging from fainting to numbness in the hands and headaches. Some have hinted that the town of 95,000 near Colombia’s Caribbean coast could be experiencing a rare case of mass hysteria.

The victims range in age from 9 to 16. It is said they received the vaccine. But it is not clear if this is true. Many details are missing. Regardless, the vaccination, widely administered worldwide is safe. The residents have asked for an investigation. Health experts are collecting blood samples and testing for environmental hazards. Odds are, they won’t find any. The health officials are also echoing assurances that the vaccine is safe, there is zero evidence that it causes adverse wide scale side effects.

But mass reaction IS a well-known side effect of social children who have a fear filter through their community. The list of such events is long. Vaccine harm is easily identifiable. Environmental contamination leaves traces. This menace, not so much.

Dr. Steve Novella wrote about the known disorder in relation to the widely publicized event in Leroy, NY.

Neurologists see patients with conversion disorder frequently, and it can be positively demonstrated in many cases that the neurological symptoms are not due to any damage or lesion in the nervous system but to psychological stress. For example, it can be demonstrated in someone with psychogenic blindness that their visual system actually works. Many patients with psychogenic seizures display features that are neuroanatomically impossible to be due to actual seizures.

It is always challenging to deal with such patients. We try very hard to accurately and constructively convey to patients and their families what is happening, but unfortunately there is an undeserved stigma attached to psychological ailments in our culture and many patients resist such a diagnosis. We tend to focus on the positive – psychogenic symptoms can completely get better on their own (and usually do with encouragement and reassurance) because there is no irreversible damage to the nervous system.

via Mass Media Attention Psychogenic Syndrome – MMAPS « Science-Based Medicine.

Because that was also in a population of teen girls, the HPV virus vaccine was also suspected. It spread via Facebook. Not kidding.

The Non-Mysterious Mass Illness in Le Roy, New York – CSI.

Neurologic Illness or Hysteria? A Mysterious Twitching Outbreak – CSI.

See many more stories about incidents of mass psychogenic illness here.


  6 comments for “Colombia town reports mystery illness in 200 girls but psychogenic illness suspected

  1. August 28, 2014 at 8:45 PM

    Hi Sharon. Just to let you know it’s “Colombia” and “Colombian”.

    I am Colombian and the media frenzy with anti-vaccine stances is unbelievable. They’re fearmongering calling for a ban.

  2. August 28, 2014 at 8:49 PM

    Thanks. Fixed.

  3. busterggi
    August 29, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    Clearly witchcraft.

  4. the14thlistener
    August 29, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    I’m glad to find that this phenomena has a name. I experienced this long ago at my high school in the VA burbs of DC. Girls were fainting all over the place, no common medical condition was noted between them and there were inconclusive investigations by the school administration regarding roof tarring and carpet glue. We staged a walkout to demand further answers from the administration (and get out of class) of which they had none. Then the school year ended and I don’t believe it happened the next year, but it was remembered as some combination of mystery and teen anxiety.

  5. lyd
    September 20, 2014 at 5:10 PM

    Since they are manifesting symptoms of a neurological disorder that causes fainting, I suspect it may be a case of this: “The study, whose authors include Yehuda Shoenfeld, founder of the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases in Israel, put this case of POTS and CFS under the wider umbrella of the recently identified Autoimmune/auto-inflammatory Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants or ASIA syndrome. ASIA is a broad spectrum of neurological and immunological disorders that result in “genetically susceptible individuals” following exposure to toxins including those like aluminum added to vaccines.” from here:

    There is research in it’s fairly early stages pointing to an autoimmune component in these sorts of conditions. It’s also very common to develop these conditions after a virus. Since it’s a population in a specific area, I’m inclined to believe there may have been a genetic predisposition for these girls to develop this. These conditions are also often brought on post viral too, so I tend to be of the belief they were likely to happen but it takes something that stresses the immune system to set it off. At least, that is what I believe until something else proves otherwise.

    I also know, as said the antivaxxers will be all over this. I’m not antivax by any means but like I said, I suspect there’s something else going on and something else may have brought it on later (like a viral infection, some sort of medical trauma, even pregnancy) had they not received the vaccine.

  6. September 20, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    ASIA is not widely accepted as an actual medical condition. Please don’t make it seem that it is established.

    Those who espouse ASIA as a condition, are typically antivax.

    Vaccines are incredibly safe and have been extensively tested. It’s a high bar to claim that some new disorder related to vaccines is causing this when there is a known cause that can account for the various symptoms of these Gardasil cases.

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