Rash of mysterious rashes may be linked to mass hysteria – News and Comment – Brief Article
For the past six months, a mysterious skin rash affecting thousands of mainly primary schoolchildren has been reported at widely separated locations in fourteen states. The first outbreak occurred in Indiana in October 2001. The rashes tend to last anywhere from a few hours to two weeks, are not accompanied by other symptoms, and usually go away when the students leave school. In at least a few cases, students faked the rash by rubbing themselves with sandpaper in an effort to shut down the school.
Health investigator Dr. Norman Sykes stated that “For something like this to occur almost simultaneously in different parts of the country is, to my knowledge, unprecedented.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the rashes appear to be different kinds with different causes. While a virus may be causing some of the incidents, a national study of the rashes concluded, “With 53 million young people attending 117,000 schools every day in the United States, it is expected that rashes from a wide variety of causes will be observed.”
Health officials have ruled out the possibility of environmental causes (solvents, bacteria, etc.), with the exception of one school which had high levels of skin and dust particles. The rash of rashes began during the anthrax scare, and it’s possible that they have always existed in the school system, but during the present bio-terror concern, students have been paying more attention to their skin and school nurses are more likely to report such incidents. Dry skin and itching are notorious during the winter months in the U.S. as people spend more time indoors and the air is typically dry from the heating system.
Robert Bartholomew is a sociologist and freelance writer living in Vermont; Benjamin Radford is a writer and managing editor of the SKEPTICAL INQUIRER.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group