Sudan records further outbreaks of dengue fever and ‘acute hysteria’

23 patients have died since the outbreak of dengue fever began in 12 Sudanese states, meanwhile, nine cases of ‘acute hysteria’ have prompted calls for a factfinding mission in South Kordofan.

23 patients have died since the outbreak of dengue fever began in 12 Sudanese states, meanwhile, nine cases of ‘acute hysteria’ have prompted calls for a factfinding mission in South Kordofan. 

The Sudanese Ministry of Health reported 3,326 cases of dengue fever across Sudan on Tuesday. 23 patients died from the fever, according to the report. 

North Kordofan is most affected, with 11 deaths and 1,164 patients, followed by West Kordofan, which recorded six deaths and 938 affected patients, while North Darfur registered one death and 655 patients.  Red Sea state, Kassala, White Nile state, South Kordofan, East Darfur, and West Darfur have also reported dengue cases. 

Vector-borne diseases are on the rise in Sudan after recent floods. In North Kordofan, doctors recently called to declare the capital El Obeid a disaster area due to the outbreak of dengue fever. Sudan is witnessing its worst outbreak of dengue fever in over a decade, especially in North and South Kordofan and Red Sea state, according to Director General of Emergencies at the Ministry of Health Muntasir Osman.

Following an announcement that the Ministry of Health is planning to liberalise pharmaceutical prices on Sunday, the Professional Pharmacists Association warned that the decision will double medicine prices. 

Acute hysteria 

Health sources in South Kordofan reported nine cases of acute hysteria among secondary school students in El Debibad in El Goz in the northern part of the state yesterday. 

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 sources told Radio Dabanga that the affected students, all from the El Bayan Private School for Girls, arrived at the hospital of Debibad yesterday morning, suffering from shortness of breath and “other symptoms of hysteria.” The locality director ordered the emergency room to be in permanent session until the cause for these cases is known. 

Common symptoms of the phenomenon include “fainting, palpitations, headaches, nausea, shaking, and even fits,” according to American medical sociologist and author Robert Bartholomew. 

The director of El Goz locality, Ahsan Hamdoun, chaired an emergency meeting at the hospital on Tuesday morning. It was decided that students be isolated until the causes of the symptoms are known. Blood samples were sent to the Stack Laboratory in Khartoum, and Hamdoun called on the state authorities to address the short supply of oxygen reported by the medics. 

The meeting also stressed the need for fact-finding in coordination with the Education Department and other competent authorities.

Previous cases

On November 15, Gireida locality in South Darfur recorded 62 cases of acute hysteria. The federal Ministry of Health reported on Thursday that the results of the laboratory examination of 16 samples taken from 101 secondary schoolgirls proved that they are free of dengue fever, chikungunya, and zika, after examining samples by  Stack Laboratory. 

On November 23, 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. 

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.”