Saturday, December 13, 2008

Warning of nut allergy 'hysteria'

Warning of nut allergy 'hysteria'
Measures to protect children with nut allergies are becoming increasingly absurd and hysterical, say experts.

A peanut on the floor of a US school bus recently led to evacuation and decontamination for fear it might have affected the 10-year-old passengers.

Such extreme steps to reduce exposure to nuts are not isolated and are fuelling fear and anxiety, reports the British Medical Journal Online.

A UK allergy expert said a similar "epidemic" was present in Britain. ...

[Professor Nicolas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School] said these responses were extreme and had many of the hallmarks of mass psychogenic illness (MPI), previously known as epidemic hysteria.

Often seen occurring in small towns, schools and other institutions, outbreaks of MPI involve healthy people in a flow of anxiety, most often triggered by a fear of contamination.

I think Professor Christakis is so right about this. And I think his observation applies to the way some people react to many things they don't understand, such as the use of pheromones to control destructive insect infestations. See here.

It's very sad, too, that this kind of ignorance is often spread by "journalists" who seem to deliberately ignore important distinctions they ought to understand, to say nothing of the underlying science. As I discussed in my item linked above.

Further reading:

Fear of nuts creating hysteria of epidemic proportions (12/10/08) – press release

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