Over 50 girls in Senegal succumb to "hysteria"
Over 50 schoolgirls have succumbed to what educators here are calling "collective hysteria" - fainting and screaming, requiring hospitalisation.
The girls' bizarre behaviour caused firefighters to shut down the secondary school where the incident occurred. All of the 53 girls and two boys that experienced the unexplained fit were evacuated to the capital's main hospital.
"The phenomenon started in one of the classrooms of the 5th standard girls," said Adina Aidara, the principal of the Lamine Gueye Secondary School in Dakar where the strange event occurred. "Three students, all girls, fell down. The same phenomenon was repeated 30 minutes later during recess -- this time involving high schoolers. We called the fire department to evacuate the victims," he said.
The incident began yesterday at 9 am. By 1 pm (local time), the school had sent 55 students to the hospital in ambulances, all but two of whom were girls, he said.
"It's an event that is completely out of the ordinary," said Aidara.
Col. Diene Faye of the local fire brigade said the gravity of the phenomenon prompted officials to close down and isolate the high school.
At the city's central hospital, anguished parents fussed over their daughters.
A 15-year-old girl in the hospital ward, who spoke with her mother that her side, said that she was in the middle of chatting with a friend. "Suddenly I had a horrible headache. It hurt so much that I started screaming. And then I fainted. From that moment on, I no longer knew where I was," she said.
Immediately after the incident, Dakar was abuzz with rumours of evil spirits and of supernatural retaliation.