Officials Blame Mass Hysteria for Guizhou Student Illnesses
(Beijing) – Initially thought to be an outbreak of food poisoning, a provincial government investigation has said that mass hysteria sent 86 students to the hospital for emergency treatment.
The results of the investigation were released one day after the March 29 incident in which primary school students in Zhijin County of Guizhou Province started to vomit and complain of stomachaches after eating breakfast.
The breakfasts were part of a nutrition improvement program which began just three days earlier. Each breakfast pack included a box of Mengniu milk and a bread roll.
The provincial government investigation concluded that a few students began to exhibit stomach discomfort, which spread panic in the group. Many more students then began to believe they shared the same illness.
Also known as "mass psychogenic illness," officials have designated mass hysteria as the origin of several outbreaks of panic in recent years.
In May 2009, over 1,000 factory workers at a Jilin Connell Chemical plant were struck with headaches and vomiting. China's Center for Disease Control and other central government authorities ruled the source of the illness as mass hysteria. However, one week after the incident, China's State Administration of Work Safety posted a statement citing a gas leak as the cause of the health problems. The statement was later removed from the website.
The Guizhou investigation has raised similar public suspicions based on the fact that the government did not provide further information on food safety tests conducted. Several netizens expressed doubts over the thoroughness of the tests.
A March 31 report by the Shanghai-based Dongfang Daily stated several children at the school had complained of stomach problems days before students were rushed to the hospital.
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