Dozens of schoolgirls in Kenya have been hospitalised with a mystery paralysing ‘illness’.
Concerned health officials in the African nation have launched a probe to discover the cause of the bizarre outbreak, warning it could have ‘disastrous’ consequences should it happen to be infectious.
Local media reports 95 students were suddenly struck down at an all-girls school in Musoli, a town 232 miles (374km) north west of Nairobi.
Alarming footage circulating online — claiming to be of the crisis — shows pupils at the school struggling to walk, being carried by friends and shaking uncontrollably. Bed-bound kids are also seen convulsing in what appears to be a hospital.
Doctors are currently baffled as to what triggered the sudden outbreak. Samples of blood and urine from girls struck down have been sent to labs.
However, some experts have cast doubt on the illness, suggesting it may be a case of ‘mass hysteria’. Education bosses have also, according to local news outlets, said there are fears ‘the majority are feigning their sickness’ with end of year exams only weeks away.
Local media reports state that the pupils were suddenly left struggling to walk, while videos posted on social media appear to show them unable to stand, experiencing convulsions and complaining of knee pain
Susan Nakhumicha, the country’s health premier, said no pathogens were identified among the St Theresa’s Eregi Girls High School students.
Addressing members of the National Assembly Public Investment Committee on Education and Governance, she said more tests would be carried out to determine the cause of the illness, according to local news site Daily Nation.
‘We have been in contact with the director of public health and as of yesterday [Tuesday], there were 95 girls hospitalised,’ Ms Nakhumicha said.
‘By the end of today [Wednesday], we anticipate having a comprehensive report.
‘So far, five tests have been conducted and no pathogens have been identified.’
She added: ‘However, additional samples have been sent to Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi for further analysis.’
However, the BBC reported that experts believe it could be a case of ‘mass hysteria’ and said pupils threw stones at Government officials who showed up at their school.
Jared Obiero, the western region director of education, told Daily Nation that some of the students may be unwell but the majority could be ‘feigning their sickness’.
He said: ‘Form three students were to start their end of year exams on Wednesday, but some of them are opposing the school programme, claiming they are not ready for exams.’
This means some of the students’ symptoms ‘may not be genuine’, he added.
Government officials said 95 students from a school some 232 miles (374 kilometres) northwest of Nairobi, had been struck down
Conflicting reports in local newspapers saw confusion over whether the school had temporarily closed. But the ministry of education yesterday confirmed it remains open.
However, some parents have chosen to take their children out of school.
Local newspapers reported that Dr Steven Wandei, the director of medical services in Kakamega county, where the school is situated, urged them against doing so.
They reported he said: ‘We have not established the nature of the disease that has affected the students.
‘Taking them home could be risky because, if the disease is infectious, it is likely to wipe out the entire family.’
In a similar case in 2015, 40 school children in the UK were treated by ambulance crews for anxiety-based nausea and faintness.
The children from Outwood Academy in Ripon, North Yorkshire, had all attended a remembrance service in its assembly hall.
Fire brigade specialists dispatched to the incident found no signs of hazardous materials, but found the hall was warm.
In what appeared to be a case of mass hysteria, North Yorkshire fire service suspected that a handful of children fainted, with the rest developing symptoms driven by anxiety that rippled through the school.