What Caused The Odd Laughter Epidemic of 1962?

What Caused The Odd Laughter Epidemic of 1962?

In 1962, students from schools all over Tanzania fell into unexplained fits of contagious laughter

On March 18th, 1962 a boarding-school in Kashasah, Tanzania was forced to close its doors after 95 of the 159 students began suffering bizarre and sporadic fits of laugher. Symptoms of the laughing outbreak were reported to of lasted anywhere from a few hours, up to an astonishing 16 days straight. The epidemic then spread to the village Nshamba, where many of the Kashasah students lived. In April and May, 217 Nshamba villagers were reported to have fallen into uncontrollable fits of laughter, many of the affected described as having been young adults and children. Then again in June of that year 48 girls in Bukoba were again affected by the strange fits of laughter at the Ramashenye girls middle-school.  Amazingly a total of 14 schools around the region were closed during the curious outbreak.

Six to eighteen months after the incident began, the episodes of laughing suddenly stopped, leaving most of the affected with a bizarre series of symptoms. Surprisingly almost all of the 1000 people who had been affected reported experiencing: pain, fainting, respiratory problems, rashes, fits of crying, and uncontrollable screaming.


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