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Explainer: All you need to know about mass hysteria

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Recently, Starehe Girls Centre was closed for a few days after an outbreak of a mysterious disease that left 52 students isolated.

The disease, characterised by unique multiple high-pitched coughing and sneezing pattern, had affected more than 60 students in four days.

Health ministry, which found no signs of disease from blood samples taken to the lab, termed the infection as mass psychogenic illness, also known as mass hysteria.

Here is what you need to know about this infection that sent shockwave across Starehe and beyond:

It is the rapid spread of illness signs and symptoms affecting members of a cohesive group.

It usually originates from a nervous system disturbance that involves excitement, loss, or alteration of function, whereby physical complaints such as a cough are exhibited unconsciously and have no corresponding organic cause.

Clinical Psychologist and Chief Executive Thalia Psychotherapy in Nairobi Ruth Mwaura says that the condition is referred to mass hysteria because it would start with one person and spread to other individuals like the case at the Starehe Girls Centre.

“We classify it under conversion disorders, which is a chronic condition characterised by unexplained physical symptoms,” she says.

“In these you find pain that is excessive or chronic, chronic and multiple symptoms that seem to lack adequate explanations, complaints that don’t improve despite treatment that helps most people.”

Specialists often describe it as a psychological illness, meaning it begins in the mind as opposed to the body.

It exhibits physiological symptoms that affect the nervous system in the absence of a physical cause of illness, and which may appear in reaction to psychological distress such as fear, sadness and anxiety.

  • What are the symptoms of mass hysteria?

Mass hysteria have symptoms that have no organic basis— meaning upon conducting medical exams, no results can conclusively explain the occurrence of the ‘disease’.

This condition occurs in a segregated group with studies showing that females are often victims of the occurrence.

It also occurs in the presence of extraordinary anxiety such as the beginning of exams or change of environment.

  • How does mass hysteria start?

Many outbreaks of mass psychogenic start with an environmental trigger, like a bad smell or a rumour of exposure to a poison.

When one person gets sick, others in the group also start feeling sick, for example, if one person starts coughing the others star coughing as well.

It should also be noted that the first person to get sick might have had a real illness, but it might not have been related to the trigger.

Medical specialists and researchers, however, agree that a major cause of mass hysteria is stress.

“What triggers it can vary but it is often triggered by stress that is not addressed, which is then expressed physically,” says Ms Mwaura.

“Among adolescents, it can be pressures in school and at home (to perform), relationship issues, conflict with teachers and peers, issues that come with adolescence like self-identity, conflicts at home, dysfunctional families, abuse both physical and sexual among others.”

  • How do the symptoms spread?

The symptoms of mass hysteria are often temporary and are spread over sight, sound or oral communication.

They have a rapid onset with a quick recovery period.

It also spreads and moves down the age scale, beginning with older or higher-status people in the affected group.

Reports show that symptoms are further spread when there is much attention given such as a media coverage of the outbreak.

  • Are the symptoms real or imagined?

Although mass hysteria starts as a psychological ailment, people who are in these outbreaks have real signs of sickness that are not imagined or faked.

Those affected exhibit real symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, headaches, dizziness among others but they are not caused by any germs or poison.

A disease is only classified as mass hysteria if physical exams and tests are normal, doctors can’t find anything wrong with the group’s environment, but many people get sick.

  • What is the relationship of mass hysteria with females?

Research shows that instances of mass hysteria are most prominently experienced by groups of women.

Some researchers argue that women may be more exposed to collective obsessional behaviour because they are typically exposed to more stressful situations.

“The social and cultural factors in which you find women are more prone to tension and frustration and most times it will be exhibited in physical symptoms,” Ms Mwaura notes.

The occurrence is then related to the possibility of extreme stress that is then manifested through physiological symptoms and behaviour.

  • Has mass hysteria happened before?

Mass hysteria has occurred several times in various countries, with a majority taking place in schools. In 1962, in Kashasha village, Tanzania, three girls in the Kashasha Mission School broke into fits of giggles.

Within weeks, the contagious laughter spread to the whole school, the village, and into neighbouring schools as well.

The laughing epidemic, which affected thousands and lasted a few months, was accompanied by reports of fainting, screaming, crying and difficulties in breathing.

In the 1980s, girls in Mityana Secondary School in Uganda had a mass hysteria, with the girls saying they were being attacked by “demons” and “spirits”.

The school had to be shut down after almost 100 students attempted to kill a teacher. The incident began with only eight students.

More recently, on February 4, 2008, more than 100 pupils went out of control in Sir Tito Winyi Primary School, located in Hoima District, Uganda.

According to the school head teacher, the pupils were totally mad, chasing everybody including teachers and fellow pupils, throwing stones, banging doors and window.

  • How is mass hysteria treated?

Most of mass hysteria outbreaks stop when people get away from the place where the illness started.

The illness also tends to go away once people are examined and doctors tell them that they do not have a dangerous illness.

“Another is to ignore the behaviour because it ceases with time. In schools you will find when a person starts exhibiting the behaviours and he or she is given attention, it continues,” Ms Mwaura says.

“What needs to be done is the person is referred to the school psychologist when the physical tests have turned out negative so as to explore psychological issues and address them.”

As it affects mostly schools and is triggered by stressful environments, it is also important for counsellors to talk to students about stress and how to manage it effectively.

by nation.co.ke


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News

Maradona dies at 60 following a heart attack

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Argentina legend Diego Maradona died on Wednesday at the he age of 60 following a heart attack. According to ESPN, Matias Morla, Maradona’s longtime agent, confirmed the news to of his demise.

He suffered a heart attack at his home in the outskirts of Buenos Aires on Wednesday, according to Argentine media as well as several acquaintances of the former player.

Maradona had recently battled health issues, even undergoing emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma several weeks ago.

Following his death, a statement from the Argentina Football Association read: “The Argentine Football Association, through its President Claudio Tapia, expresses its deepest pain at the death of our legend, Diego Armando Maradona. You’ll always be in our hearts.”

He was one of the most recognisable people in the world.

Maradona, who was born in 1960, captained Argentina to World Cup 1986 glory as well as reaching the final in 1990. At the height of his club career, at Napoli from 1984 to 1991, he helped the side win its only two Italian league titles. le people in the world.

According to ESPN, in 2004, he was hospitalised with severe heart and respiratory problems related to a long battle with drug addiction.

Major news agencies report that he had undergone two gastric bypass operations to control his weight and received treatment for alcohol abuse.

Maradona is survived by his wife, Veronica Ojeda, two daughters, two sons, and his former wife, Claudia Villafane.


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Health

Janet Mbugua shares her Covid-19 scare

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Media personality Janet Mbugua has shared the tale of the time she faced a scare as thought she had contracted Covid-19 last month.

In a video she shared on Instagram, the former Citizen tv news anchor said she experienced Covid-19 symptoms which escalated quite quickly.

The video shows her being taken through the nasal swab test for Covid-19, which is known to very uncomfortable.

Luckily, the result for the mother of two came back negative.

Janet Mbugua said that her scary experience motivated her to fight the fear and stigma related to Coronavirus, and will use her platform to advocate for a vaccine.

This comes as Covid-19 cases continue to rise sharply in Kenya amid a rush by various pharmaceutical companies globally to come up with an effective vaccine.

By NN


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Business

How I made my first million

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At what age did you make your first million? 

I was 19.

How did you make it? 

I was running a creative design and printing agency. I bid for and won an order to design and print marketing materials for a global NGO which has offices in Kenya.

How did you spend or invest it? 

I re-invested most of it into the business by buying more machinery to reduce costs associated with outsourcing. I also set up a new business with a friend – a movie shop in Nairobi CBD.

The biggest money mistake you have ever made? 

Setting up the movie shop was the greatest money mistake – but I picked up two of the greatest business lessons. One, to never divest too early, and only invest in a business you understand well.

What is the best investment you have ever made?

 I would say investing in myself and in my exposure through travel. Travel has made me see endless possibilities for innovating new products, business models and solutions in the African market. A combination of the international exposure and strong local market understanding is priceless.

What is the worst purchase you have ever made? 

The movie shop. I bought a ready business that I did not understand and it went crumbling down. We eventually closed it a few months later.

If you had a spare million or two, where would you invest it right now?

I would invest it in my current business – a software technology company. This is because I believe the business has potential to become a great success.

What is the biggest money lesson you have learnt about growing it and making it work for you? 

Initially, we all have to work for money. However, I have learnt that the wealthy person has learnt how to make money work for them, through consistently investing what one earns.

Where do you learn about finances? 

I read a lot of books about real success stories from entrepreneurs because I believe entrepreneurship is a great way to create wealth, while creating value in the society. I also stay curious to learn about different investment vehicles because I know I shouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket.

Any financial myths you think should be busted? 

Money is not the root of all evil; greed may be. Money is a good thing because it can create freedom and prosperity, if well spent.

What two personal finance rules do you follow? 

Live within your means; and work to make money as a tool to accomplish real goals. Real goals are not just about making “enough” money, because it is almost impossible to define “enough.”

Investing or saving…Which one carries more weight?

Investing. However, they go hand to hand as saving to invest is acceptable.

One can get rich easily… but how does one stay rich? 

By constantly making calculated investment risks, and always striving to be wealthy, not rich.


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