10 Strangest Mass Hysterias

Strawberries with Sugar Virus (2006)
In 2006, hundreds of Portuguese kids began experiencing dizziness and rashes that doctors later attributed to them having seen a mysterious virus on the popular teen soap opera "Strawberries with Sugar." AlexandraR/Moments/Getty Images

In May 2006, more than 300 Portuguese schoolkids began complaining they were sick. Many were having problems breathing. Some were dizzy. Others developed rashes. The kids were scattered at 14 different schools around the country, and some of the schools were forced to close [source: China Daily]. Was it possible a deadly virus had descended upon the country?

Here's the intriguing part: These issues developed just a few days after a popular teen soap opera "Morangos com Açúcar" ("Strawberries with Sugar") aired an episode about a mysterious, life-threatening virus. The show centers on the lives of Portuguese kids, and in the episode, the virus was striking children at a school.

After much study, medical officials decided the TV program was part of the problem. Some kids who had allergies or rashes became fearful their ailments were actually serious health problems after viewing the show. Other kids developed the "illness" because they were stressed about the upcoming end-of-year exams. And some merely suffered from collective delusion. How could experts be so sure? "I know of no disease which is so selective that it only attacks schoolchildren," Dr. Mario Almeida told local daily Correio de Manha.