Sunday, February 13, 2011

Infectious Laughter

On January 30, 1962, there were three 12 to 13 year old girls at a mission-run boarding school in Kashasha, Tanganyika  who started laughing.  Very quickly, the laughter spread throughout the school, affecting 95 of the 159 students, aged 12–18. Their symptoms lasted varying lengths of time and had different levels of intensity, and ultimately the school was forced to close down on March 18, 1962. After the school was closed, the boarding students were sent home, and the laughing epidemic spread to Nshamba, a village where several of the students lived.

Some reports suggest that people were continuously laughing for months, while other reports say that the epidemic was actually occasional attacks of laughter among groups of people that occurred at irregular intervals. Reports also state that the laughter was incapacitating when it struck.

The lesson here is that laughter really is contagious, just as our attitudes are. 

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