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10 Schools Close After Hundreds of Girls Faint

April 5, 1993

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Hundreds of teen-age girls experienced mysterious fainting spells that forced officials to close 10 schools north of Cairo for a week, health officials said Monday.

Blood and urine tests as well as analysis of air and water in the schools found no evidence of poisoning or disease. Health Minister Ragheb Dewidar blamed mass hysteria.

″On the basis of the preliminary results, these are psychological cases that affect girls of this age and then disappear without any complications or permanent effects,″ Dewidar told the government’s Al-Akhbar newspaper.

He said similar cases of mass hysteria happened in Egypt several years ago and in London 10 years ago.

A Health Ministry official said 207 cases were reported Thursday; none on Friday, the Muslim Sabbath when school was in recess; 79 on Saturday; 54 on Sunday; and 11 on Monday, for an official total of 351.

But the daily newspaper Al-Ahram reported more than 400 pupils fainted, and the daily Al-Wafd said there were at least 500.

Officials in Beheira province, 75 miles north of Cairo, ordered 10 schools closed until Saturday, Al-Gomhuriya newspaper reported.

Newspapers said most of those affected were 13- or 14-year-old girls, although a few teen-age boys also reported symptoms. Some girls said they smelled a bad odor before fainting, and others complained of severe headaches or stomach pains.

Authorities said they typically woke up after several hours feeling well.

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