Office perfume spritz sparks psychosomatic hysteria

by 11 Nov 2011

Thirty-four workers were hospitalised and almost 150 needed medical treatment after a colleague in their office sprayed perfume at work.

Fire fighters and paramedics originally feared a carbon monoxide or other gas leak has struck down the workers at a Bank of America office in Fort Worth, Texas last year.

Workers reported feeling dizzy and short of breath, and 12 employees were evacuated on stretchers before being rushed to hospital in ambulances. A further 22 with less serious symptoms were transported by bus.

However after officials conducted a thorough investigation of the building, it was discovered that the ‘noxious gas’ was nothing more than a ladies perfume -  though it was never determined whether a fruity or floral scent was to blame.

Lieutenant Kent Worley, from the Fort Worth fire department, said the drama began when two people complained of dizziness after their nearby colleague sprayed ‘something’.

A rush of hysteria soon began after a loudspeaker announcement was made instructing anyone with similar symptoms to leave the building.

Lt. Worley suggested the situation had escalated because of 'psychosomatic behaviour', which was described by medical experts at the scene as 'contagious fear'.

Medical experts say episodes of 'contagious fear' should not be dismissed because they can often bring on actual symptoms.

HR bottom line? Never yell ‘fire’ in a crowd!


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