Bizarre Events: The June Bug Epidemic

June Bug (Public Domain Image)

The June Bug Epidemic was a case of mass hysteria that occurred in a North Carolina textile mill in 1962. Several workers came down with an illness that made them dizzy and nauseous. There was also vomiting. Because there were some June bugs in the mill, they began to believe that the bugs had bitten them, causing the illness. While some of the workers may have been bitten, there is no illness connected with the bite of June bugs. By the time the event had reached its peak, 62 of the mill workers had come down with the mysterious illness. The CDC investigated the case and reached the conclusion that it was mass hysteria.

While mass hysteria is more a diagnosis of elimination than anything, it is nearly certain in some cases. In the case of the June bug Epidemic, the victims all worked closely together. No physical reason for the symptoms, such as a virus, was detected. All of the victims had the same or similar symptoms. All of this on top of the fact that the symptoms matched some of those associated with mass hysteria led to the diagnosis of it.

Mass hysteria occurs when a group of people is convinced they are ill because of the symptoms of one or a few. It is presumed that there is at least one truly ill person in some cases, but that the illness only spreads through the convictions of the others. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and dizziness. These are also symptoms of acute anxiety. If a person becomes convinced that they are going to "catch" what someone else has, they may develop anxiety. If this happens to enough people in a given area, mass hysteria results.