Mysterious illness spreading in alarming way

The mysterious illness has been spreading rapidly during the last 18 days, striking students of dozens of schools in different parts across the country, causing panic in the areas.

Mysterious illness spreading in alarming way
With some 90 more reported struck by mass hysteria on Wednesday, the total number of the students afflicted by the mass psychogenic illness in Bangladesh has exceeded 550 since July 14.

The mysterious illness has been spreading rapidly during the last 18 days, striking students of dozens of schools in different parts across the country, causing panic in the areas.

Mass hysteria, a sort of temporary psychiatric problem, usually affects specific groups of children or people, spreading quickly from one person to another, Bangladesh Health Adviser Matiur Rahman told a press briefing earlier on July 19.

In the first outbreak in capital Dhaka, eight girls from the same class of grade eight in Hazrat Shah Ali Model High School in Mirpur residential fell unconscious in the morning on July 24.

"The girls fainted within 15-20 minute one by one and they were immediately sent to hospital," MA Hamid, the school teacher who was giving a mathematics class to the girls, told Xinhua on Thursday.

"The girls felt vomiting tendency, headache and weakness before they fainted," headmaster of the school Md. Mustafiz Billah said.

"They also got breathing problems," MA Hamid said.

Doctor Ataur Rahman of Selina General Hospital and Diagnostic Center who received the sick girls said that the students remained unconscious for about half an hour. He said they only gave sedative to one student whose condition was serious. For others, they just gave saline or spread fresh water on their faces.

"No treatment was needed as it's not a physical disease and has no risk of death," he said. However, the girls were kept in the clinic for 24 hours for observations.

In terms of the cause, the doctor said some of these girls didn't have their breakfast in the morning and that some didn't even take their supper on the previous night. That might be the cause as they are too weak, he added.

Some psychological impact might have acted because reports about the disease from different parts of the country are being published in newspapers almost everyday, he said.

The headmaster said their half-yearly examination is ahead. This might be another reason.

Experts said an outbreak of the mass psychogenic illness is at a time of anxiety and worry. The illness is aggravated by malnutrition, tension and lack of tolerance. The victims are mostly students aged between 13 and 25.

The illness usually occurs in closed communities, like schools and factories and it tends to occur more frequently among adolescent girls. Emotional factors sometimes make adolescents, with low level of tolerance for stress, to feel headache, nausea, convulsion, pain in the chest and abdomen, and difficulty in breathing.

However, experts said people don't need to panic since no one died of the seizures. The disease has no long-term complication and remits almost automatically after a few hours of the appearance of symptoms. Counseling, nutritious food and proper health care for the sick students are very important.

The government has attached importance to the disease and called upon all especially the mass media to create public awareness so that the common people can easily cope with the disease themselves without getting unduly worried.

The government decided to raise awareness about the illness by forming a platform comprising representatives from all affected sections of the population, the Health Adviser announced on July 24 at a seminar.

A seminar on "Mass Psychogenic Illness" was held at Dhaka Medical College Hospital in line with the government's plan to launch the awareness program.

The adviser said a platform of doctors, teachers and parents of students will initiate an awareness raising program, rendering support to emotionally distressed adolescents.

Last Mod: 03 Ağustos 2007, 13:21
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