St. Theresa’s Eregi Girls High School in Kakamega County, Kenya, has been temporarily closed following an outbreak of a mysterious illness that has left more than 95 students hospitalized.
The disease is characterized by paralysis in the limbs, rendering most of the students unable to walk.
The school administration, in consultation with government officials, has decided to send Form One (Grade 7), Form Two (Grade 8), and Form Three (Grade 9) students home until further assessments are made.
Blood samples from the affected students have been sent to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) for analysis, according to Kenyan news outlet Tuko.
Based on the videos circulating on social media, most of the students are suffering from some sort of mystery illness that causes paralysis in their legs, making it difficult for them to walk. Some reports have attributed the incident to “mass hysteria.”
A possible case of mass hysteria has broken out at an all-girls school in western Kenya, with girls reporting that they are unable to walk. pic.twitter.com/YeJSSdijyG
— Catch Up (@CatchUpFeed) October 4, 2023
The situation at St. Theresa’s Eregi Girls High School reached a critical point when students demanded to go home due to the outbreak.
The school administration initially reported at least 80 students hospitalized but later confirmed that the number had risen to more than 95. The County Government of Kakamega stated that only Form Four students would remain in school as the rest break for a week. The students will return once the situation is assessed and measures are put in place to prevent a recurrence of a similar situation.
Blood samples from the affected students have been sent to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) laboratories in Nairobi and Kisumu for analysis. The exact nature of the mysterious illness remains undisclosed, but health officials are working diligently to determine the nature and origin of the ailment, as well as to develop appropriate treatment protocols, according to Kenyan website Star.
Sources privy to the situation told the Star that 30 students are admitted to Kakamega Level Five Hospitals, 20 to Shibwe Level Four Hospital and 12 to Iguhu Level Four Hospital.
A medic at Ihugu Hospital told the Star that initial laboratory tests had revealed that the students had elevated electrolytes, meaning that they had lost fluids.
Electrolytes are essential for basic life functioning, such as maintaining electrical neutrality in human body cells and generating and conducting action potentials in the nerves and muscles.
Prolonged or severe diarrhoea and sweating can result in the loss of electrolytes.
The cause of the mysterious illness affecting the students remains undetermined, but social media users are drawing connections to experimental COVID-19 vaccines.
Liz Crokin, an award-winning author and seasoned journalist with over two decades of experience, noted on platform X, “Last year, the Kenya World Health Organization tweeted that students from this school were among those vaccinated for COVID-19 as part of a 10-day campaign.”
“Maybe there’s a connection or perhaps not. Either way, there’s media already pushing the narrative that it’s a case of “mass hysteria” which I find super sus regardless. Pray for these girls!” she concluded.
The tweet she referred to was from WHO last year.
@WHO & @MOH_Kenya are this week encouraging citizens to take #COVID19 vaccines in Kakamega, Kilifi & Kisumu counties. Students from St Theresa Eregi Girls Secondary School are among those who got vaccinated. The campaign will run for 10 days.#PataChanjoKaaChonjo @VaccinesKenya pic.twitter.com/JKQdHYJGN6
— WHO Kenya (@WHOKenya) July 20, 2022