As you sow, so shall you reap … Carolina Reapers, formerly the world’s hottest chilli peppers. Eating one appears to have given a man reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome.
Image Credit: Photograph by Photograph: Alamy
A man who took part in a chilli pepper eating contest ended up with more than he bargained for when he took on the hottest pepper in the world.
After eating a Carolina Reaper pepper, the 34-year-old started dry heaving before developing a pain in his neck that turned into a series of thunderclap headaches: sudden and severe episodes of excruciating pain that peak within a minute.
The Carolina Reaper, which can top 2.2m on the Scoville heat scale, was the world’s hottest pepper at the time of the incident in 2016 – although new breeds called Pepper X and Dragon’s Breath have since reportedly surpassed it.
The details, published in the journal BMJ Case Reports, reveal the pain was so terrible the man went to the emergency room at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, a village in New York State.
“[A thunderclap headache] lasts for a few minutes and it might be associated with dry-heaving, nausea, vomiting – and then it gets better on its own.
But it keeps coming back,” said Dr Kulothungan Gunasekaran of the Henry Ford HealthSystem in Detroit, a co-author of the report, adding that thunderclap headaches can be caused by a number of problems including bleeding inside the brain or blood clots.
CT and MRI scans of the man’s brain were taken but showed nothing out of the ordinary. What’s more, the man did not report having any speech or vision problems.
A young child engulfed by plumes of smoke from burning coal inside an unregulated charcoal production field in Jharkhand, India, which holds some of India’s largest coal reserves.
Image Credit: Photograph by Ashley Crowther
What are the symptoms – and what should I do if I feel unwell?
Spanish influenza victims crowd into an emergency hospital at Camp Funston, Kansas, United States in 1918. Photograph: Associated Press
In late 1918 the world’s greatest killer – Spanish flu – roared towards Gunnison, a mountain town in Colorado.
The pandemic was infecting hundreds of millions of people in Europe, Africa, Asia and across the United States, overwhelming hospitals and morgues in Boston and Philadelphia before sweeping west, devastating cities, villages and hamlets from Alaska to Texas.
Gunnison, a farming and mining town of about 1,300 people, had special reason to fear.
Two railroads connected it to Denver and other population centres, many badly hit.
“The flu is after us” the Gunnison News-Champion warned on 10 October, 1918. “It is circulating in almost every village and community around us”.
What happened next is instructive amid a new global health emergency a century later as the world struggles to react to the emergence of coronavirus.
Gunnison declared a “quarantine against all the world”.
It erected barricades, sequestered visitors, arrested violators, closed schools and churches and banned parties and street gatherings, a de facto lockdown that lasted four months.
It worked. Gunnison emerged from the pandemic’s first two waves – by far the deadliest – without a single case. It was one of a handful of so-called “escape communities” that researchers have analysed for insights into containing the apparently uncontainable.
The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed well over 50 million people around the world.
The image above shows people playing baseball while wearing masks.
The crowd wear masks as well. And that reflects the most terrifying and devastating aspect of the 1918 pandemic in a way the other pictures don’t:
It killed anyone. Young, healthy adults—of the sort that play baseball—normally rarely care about the flu, but the 1918 outbreak was different.
It killed anyone, and we still don’t really know why.
The photo also represents a sad futility when you learn that the masks didn’t protect people.
While cotton gauze may stop bacteria, viruses are much smaller.
Yet pictures record large groups wearing them, from police in Seattle, to paperboys in Canada, to soldiers in France, right down to the general public.
Not one of them was protected in any way from one of the deadliest events in human history.