Mysterious Disease Hits New York High School

Posted: January 27, 2012 in Current Events, Environment

The story is about 10 days old now, but little has been added to the original information.  I hope this is not one of those stories that fades away without follow up.  Over the past three months at LeRoy High School in New York State, a strange story has unfolded involving 15 high school girls who have developed strange nervous symptoms of ticks and verbal outbursts that are similar to Tourrettes syndrome.  The backgound information is suspiciously slim, but it appears that the girls in question were not within one friendship group and were in fact a variety of grades where they would have very little contact with each other.  The diagnosis of psychogenic hysteria (wich has been dubbed “conversion disorder” to be more politically correct) claims that this is a subconscious way of dealing with stress.  There is little information about the individual girls, but the two who did agree to interviews claim that there was no unusual stress in their lives prior to the onset of the symptoms.  In addition, one has to ask why a spontaneous mass hysteria would erupt among girls who don’t know each other and who were apparently not aware of each other’s symptoms.  And, if such mass hysteria is feasible, why is it so rare?  What precipitated it’s appearance in this school with these particular girls? If it is a hysterical reaction to stress, why have none of the mothers been affected?

If one looks at possible explanations, it would be best to give the most attention to the ones which seem more likely.  What are some other possible explanations?

In the past few days the mysterious outbreak has captured the attention of Erin Brockovich, the famous activist who gained notoriety in the movie bearing her name.  She is focusing on a chemical spill in the area which spilled cyanide and trichloroethene  just a few miles away from the high school.  Yes, the spill was 40 years ago, and no conclusions have yet been made, but personally it sounds a little more realistic than the mass hysteria diagnosis.

Another possible theory, although it will immediately raise the dander on so called skeptics, is a reaction to a bad batch of some kind of inoculation.  Bad batches go out and there is lots of documented evidence to that end.  For example there is the case of Baxter International, who in 2009 shipped a serum which was infected with live avian flu virus.  (They claim it was unintentional, but one can’t help but think that a bird flu epidemic would result in lots of customers for the serum.)  A bad batch of something like the HPV vaccine would affect a local population of young girls.  (The one boy infected could be conversion disorder as he showed symptoms afterwards. That, at least, makes sense.)

The other thing is that there would be a fair bit of effort to cover up the facts in either of these alternative explanations, and there does seem to be a striking lack of information in any of the articles I researched.  I know that hysterical reactions, or conversion disorder as they now prefer to call it, can manifest in a lot of unusual ways.  However in this particular case it just doesn’t ring true.  Hopefully the media will follow the story and keep us up to date.

  1. Michael says:

    If I read this correctly, it’s in upstate NY, near Rochester.

    Sounds like Hooker Chemical is coming back to bite again.

  2. pwiinholt says:

    As far as I recall, and I visited the site back in the day, Hooker Chemical was primarily located between Buffalo and Niagara Falls N.Y.. Although the chemical spill currently being investigated may be related to the company. The time period is certainly right.

  3. Kim says:

    I was just watching a Mystery Diagnosis where a kid had behaviors and ticks due to a condition called PANDA (I know sounds totally unreal, but its not) it starts with the strep virus. And not all people experience the symptoms of strep before they start exhibiting the strange behavior.

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