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South Darfur schools witness 'acute hysteria' phenomenon

November 16 - 2022 GIREIDA
Secondary school girls in Darfur (File photo)
Secondary school girls in Darfur (File photo)

The Security Committee of Gireida in South Darfur announced the closure of all schools in the locality for three days on Tuesday, due to the emergence of 62 cases of acute hysteria. 

The Gireida Secondary School for Girls witnessed an outbreak of fevers, convulsions, and fainting, accompanied by hysteria on November 2. Since then, cases have increased and spread to other schools in the area. 

The medical director of Gireida Rural Hospital Ahmed Abdelrahman said in a press statement on Tuesday that the hospital has received 40 people so far, but the hospital is not able to cope with the number of cases.

The medic also reported that three cases of dengue fever were registered in Gireida locality in September. Cases of dengue fever and malaria are on the rise in Sudan.

The South Darfur Ministry of Health has reportedly dispatched a medical investigation team to Gireida. The team is headed by the Director of the South Darfur Therapeutic Medicine Department Abdelrahim El Khalifa, accompanied by members of the Health Emergency and Epidemic Control Department to assess the situation. 

Rapid response teams of the Ministry of Health in South Darfur arrived in Gireida on Monday and have sent blood samples to the National Laboratory for Diagnostics in Khartoum. 

Global phenomenon 

Mass psychogenic illness, also known as acute hysteria, involves the spread of illness symptoms through a cohesive group where there is no infectious agent responsible for contagion. The illness signs and symptoms can originate from disturbance of the nervous system involving excitation, loss, or alteration of function, according to American medical sociologist and author Robert Bartholomew.  

In an interview with the BBC in August 2019, following a similar incident at a school in North-East Malaysia in July 2018, Bartholomew described the phenomenon as “a collective stress response.”  

"The symptoms experienced are real. Fainting, palpitations, headaches, nausea, shaking, and even fits," he said. "It is often attributed to a medical condition but for which no conventional biomedical explanation can be found." 

In November 2015, Radio Dabanga reported that eight students at the Sheiria Secondary School for Girls in East Darfur suffered attacks of acute hysteria. Similar outbreaks have also been reported in Catholic convents and monasteries in Mexico, Italy, and France, in schools in Kosovo, and among cheerleaders in the USA.


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