If you're a young male living in tribal New Guinea, newly married, and facing financial pressure, then you're at risk of falling victim to wild pig syndrome. That means you're likely to embark on a five-finger-discount shopping spree for useless crap and not remember it in the morning.
It's right up there with exploding head syndrome for illnesses with deceptively awesome names.
The syndrome, which exclusively afflicts male members of the community between the ages of 25 and 35, is so named for its victims' tendency to become aggressive and hyperactive like feral animals. It's also characterized by the compulsion to steal random, usually meaningless objects, so maybe it's better described as "asshole monkey syndrome."
"Sorry for stealing your pencil sharpener and then cold-cocking you. It's my illness!"
In most cases, the victims venture into the woods for several days, during which time they destroy the stolen objects, and then return to their village without remembering the episode, only to be reminded of the event by other villagers whose shit has recently gone missing.
Traditionally, natives of New Guinea believe that the condition is caused by being bitten by the ghost of a recently deceased tribe member and can be cured by holding the sufferer over smoke until he returns to normal. Which makes us think that zombie movies in New Guinea probably suck.
But we bet their prescription pads are entertaining as hell.
Imagine you're a student in a sub-Saharan country trying to study for your exams when suddenly your brain just loses the ability to grasp what you're reading. You're exhausted, you can't speak properly anymore, and your hand shakes so much that you can't write. You're experiencing what's known in Africa as brain fag syndrome.
Although the name sounds like it was coined by surveying middle school boys, apparently it's short for "fatigue," and it only seems to affect students in West Africa -- more specifically, those studying in Western educational systems.
Also, using "fatigue" in that context is not a loophole.
Researchers studying the condition have noticed that the more proficient in the English language a person is, the higher his or her risk of coming down with the condition. And it's not just a regular case of the exam willies -- more extreme cases include pain, feelings of pressure in the head or neck, tightness, blurring of vision, rapid heartbeat, and even crawling sensations under the skin.
You'll recognize those effects from listening to any song by Taylor Swift.
So why only African kids in Western schools? Scientists think it may have something to do with the way the brain deals with this specific clash of cultures. Or rather, doesn't deal with it. Whatever the cause, 4 out of 10 school students in West Africa are at risk of getting brain fag, which is not a diagnosis that any teenager wants to hear from a doctor.
For most of us, a seasonal outbreak means that you're likely to spend a few days stuck in bed with your head full of mucus. If you're a young girl of the Miskito people of Central America, unfortunately, you're more likely to go into convulsions and start vomiting insects. This is what the Miskito people call grisi siknis, or "crazy sickness."
"On the upside, nobody makes a fuss about the goddamn swine flu."
Grisi siknis is a highly contagious and bizarre condition that causes manic convulsions and even coma in its victims. During spells, sufferers attempt to flee their community with their eyes closed, seizing any weapon they can find with which they appear to try to defend themselves against invisible attackers. According to eyewitnesses, sufferers mysteriously gain extraordinary strength, and often upward of four men are required to restrain them and tie them down with ropes. There are reported cases of 15-year-old girls with grisi siknis overpowering seven men. Basically, they all turn into that girl from The Exorcist, minus the pea soup vomit.
And plus whatever knives happen to be sitting around at the time.
The most baffling and terrifying thing for scientists studying the condition is that they really don't know what the hell is going on. It seems to spread like a virus, but blood samples from sufferers have turned up nothing. Drugs and injections just seem to make it mad. Outbreaks have been reported as far back as 1800, and an epidemic that began in 1910 is said to have lasted for a period of 20 years. There were 65 cases last year. Hell, maybe this is one occasion where the demon possession explanation is the right one.
Elorm is from Ghana, West Africa, and he'd really love to be your friend on Facebook.
For more bizarre epidemics, check out 7 Bullshit Rumors That Caused Real World Catastrophes and 5 Terrifying Killers (That Turned Out to Be Mass Panics).
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Bullying People Who Don't Like the Right TV Shows.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover what illnesses are lurking in Cracked HQ.
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