Objectives: This report describes an epidemic outbreak of mass hysteria in secondary school girls in a North Indian village following tetanus toxoid injection. It also attempts to identify the aetiological roles of the immunisation programme and the adverse media reports.
Method: The socio-demographic, clinical, and school environment variables of the 58 symptomatic students were evaluated. Interviews with health staff, parents and school teachers were conducted.
Results: Fifty-eight out of 200 immunised students reported giddiness, headache, vomiting and restlessness. This initiated an exaggerated socio-political response. The majority of the students responded to counselling and reassurance.
Conclusions: This outbreak fulfils the criteria of epidemic or communicable hysteria with mass presentations of unusual behaviour and spread of somatic symptoms without any organic basis. The episode exposed flaws in the immunisation programme and suggests the need to formulate clear guidelines for vaccination, including pre-vaccination counselling.