Ministry says Starehe Girls students suffering from mass hysteria

Written By: Claire Wanja
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Only form 4 students remained in the school to concentrate on their studies in readiness for the forthcoming KCSE examination.
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A team of experts from the Ministry of Health has concluded that the mysterious disease that is affecting students at the Starehe Girls Centre is Mass Psychogenic Illness (MPI) also called mass hysteria.

In a statement Friday signed by Head of Public Communications, Josephine Mbeo, the ministry said on 28th September 2019, it was notified by the school’s administration of students with an unusual cough. The initial twelve girls were complaining of a cough, sneezing and throat soreness.

She said in response to the report the ministry immediately dispatched the team of experts to the school to investigate and assess the situation.

“On examination the girls were found to be in stable condition. No teaching staff nor support staff in the school were affected, but having an infectious respiratory disease as a possible cause, the team recommended that the initial cases be managed in isolation.” She said.

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The team collected appropriate specimens that were tested at the National Public Health Laboratories that indicated only 2 cases of rhinovirus a predominant cause of common cold.

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“As at 2nd October, 2019 the number of affected girls had risen to 68. In light of the exclusion of an infectious cause, the absence of physical causes of illness and the rapidly increasing number of affected students the team of experts recommended immediate psychological assessment of the girls. MOH dispatched a team of specialists from Mathari National Hospital to the school to conduct a psychological assessment of the affected students. The team drew a conclusion of mass psychogenic illness (MPI) also called mass hysteria.” She added.

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Following a crisis meeting between education ministry officials and the school management Thursday morning, Forms 1, 2 and 3 students were sent home to remove them from the environment where the outbreak begun.

“In consultation with MoE/MoH officials and BOM the school management has taken the considered decision to allow the girls to go home. This is to accelerate their individual recuperation from what’s has been established to be a common flu said the schools’ communication manager Victoria Miguda on Thursday.

She added” to dissipate the anxiety that has been building up amongst the girls. The students will resume studies on Monday 7th October 2019. The decision has also been taken into consideration of the form four candidates preparing for the national examination”.

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Affected form four candidates continued receiving treatment in the school.

In addition, the MOH recommended that individual psychological evaluation of the affected students be undertaken to understand the trigger of the outbreak, also recommended was group therapy for the students as well as staff (teachers, support staff) and caregivers (parents and guardians) and need for continuous counselling of the students, sensitization and awareness creation on mental health and self-care to avert possible future occurrence.

The Ministry has re-assured the public that this it not an infectious disease and the situation is under control with the ongoing mitigation measures.

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