Here is one from my home state:
"BIG STINK: 34 hospitalized after co-worker sprays perfume!"
Perfume sets off events in Fort Worth that put 34 in hospitals
By BILL MILLER and ANTHONY SPANGLERwmiller@star-telegram.com
FORT WORTH — A rush of hysteria over what was initially reported as a gas leak likely resulted in 34 people being sent to area hospitals Wednesday afternoon.
But the actual culprit was perfume, brand unknown.
That’s right — perfume.
Lt. Kent Worley, a Fire Department spokesman, suggested that the situation escalated because of "psychosomatic behavior."
Medical experts often refer to such episodes as "contagious fear."
Fort Worth firefighters and ambulances were called about 12:45 p.m. to the Bank of America building at 5401 N. Beach St. in Fort Worth, just north of Loop 820.
Emergency officials responded to what they were told was a leak of carbon monoxide, a colorless, poisonous gas with no odor.
Firefighters soon learned, however, that a spray of perfume was the flashpoint for chaos.
"Two employees reported some dizziness in close association with someone spraying on some perfume," Worley said.
He said that when the two reported being dizzy to a supervisor, "an announcement was made over the building’s PA system saying that anyone feeling these symptoms should exit the building to an outside location."
Subsequently, Worley said, many people left the building, but many others continued working "with no ill effect."
Jumana Bauwens, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, said about 1,800 to 2,200 employees work in the building. She did know how many left the building.
Worley said: "We called a [hazardous materials] unit to the scene but they didn’t detect anything on their air monitoring unit. That air monitoring unit can detect carbon monoxide and several other chemicals and products that can be in the air. But they found nothing that would have caused people to get sick."
At about 3 p.m., firefighters declared the building safe.
Still, 12 people went to hospitals by ambulance, MedStar spokeswoman Lara Kohl said. Twenty-two with less serious symptoms went to hospitals on a city bus, she said.
An additional 110 people were evaluated and released at the scene, Kohl said.
"We haven’t heard anything back from the hospitals yet," she said.
Episodes of "contagious fear" are not uncommon and should not be treated lightly, medical experts say.
Fort Worth psychologist Hap Klinefelter said the power of suggestion can manifest itself in medical symptoms.
"Emotions are real contagious," he said. "A lot of times people will reason from their feelings. It introduces the power of suggestion and it makes them real susceptible to misinterpreting physical cues or it will distort their perceptions."
Thinking about something can make someone feel a certain way, said Mary Lynn Crow, Fort Worth clinical psychologist who teaches at the University of Texas at Arlington.
"Your thinking can actually cause you to feel pain or discomfort," she said. "Fear is one of the most contagious emotions there is. When you say to people, 'Hey, there is a contaminant in the building and it is making people sick,’ then it easy for them to feel accordingly."
A prominent case Cases of people becoming ill during supposed toxic exposure are not uncommon and should not be treated lightly, medical experts say.
One of the most prominent cases was the subject of an article in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2000, detailing the events at McMinnville, Tenn., in 1998 when a teacher noticed a smell like gasoline in her classroom.
She soon had a headache and became short of breath and dizzy. The school was evacuated, students and staffers were taken to the hospital, and 38 people were hospitalized overnight, according to the article.
But the report, spearheaded by Dr. Timothy Jones, now the state epidemiologist with the Tennessee Department of Health, concluded that the outbreak featured "widespread subjective symptoms thought to be associated with environmental exposure to a toxic substance in the absence of objective evidence of an environmental cause."
BILL MILLER, 817-390-7684