Mass hysteria closes school

2001-07-10 13:55

Kuala Lumpur - Classes were cancelled at a Malaysian girls' school on Monday after about 30 students began screaming and fainting in a mass hysteria outbreak that panicked teachers and other students, news reports said on Tuesday.

The outbreak, which lasted four hours before counsellors and parents managed to calm the victims, was triggered during morning assembly when three 15-year-old girls suddenly screamed and fainted.

The incident prompted screaming fits in other schoolgirls which soon spread throughout the school, forcing headmaster Aris Ahmad to contact the education department for help.

"I only remember staggering a distance after hearing the screams of my schoolmates before collapsing," student Nor Hasni Hassan told the Sun daily.

Classes at the Puchong Perdana secondary girls' school in Kuala Lumpur which has 2 100 students, would be closed also on Tuesday to allow the girls to recover.

Mass hysteria outbreaks affecting students at hostels or female factory workers are fairly common in Malaysia, with superstitious locals believing the women were suddenly possessed by evil spirits.

Education officials, however, dismissed Monday's outbreak had anything to do with the supernatural, saying "psychological" and "psychosomatic" reasons caused the hysteria, such as stress as most of the victims were due to sit for nation-wide examinations later this year. - Sapa-DPA