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Mass hysteria in children after snake killed
Fri Sep 8, 8:19 AM ET

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Dozens of children have fainted, apparently because of mass hysteria, after school authorities in Nepal killed a snake, considered as sacred by many Hindus, witnesses said on Thursday.

At least 67 students, aged between nine and 16 years, have had fainting fits since Tuesday in the mainly Hindu country, they said.

"Children suddenly scream, cry and faint," Rishikesh Baral, assistant headmaster of the school, told Reuters by phone.

"Some recover after a couple of hours while others are yet to fully recover. We apologize for killing the snake."

Authorities in the Laxmi Secondary School near the resort town of Pokhara, 125 km (80 miles) west of Kathmandu, organized priests to perform religious rites on Thursday to exorcise the "evil spirit" of the snake killed by school officials last week.

Doctors told school officials it was a case of hysteria caused by fear of divine retribution for the snake's death.

Hindus regard snakes as sacred and Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, is shown wearing a serpent as a garland.

A local journalist said priests scattered rice and sprinkled holy water in classrooms to drive away the snake's "spirit."
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