Last October (2011) a group of 13 teenage girls in upstate New York town LeRoy suddenly developed unexplained Tourrette’s Syndrome like tic symptoms. Many of the girls experienced the symptoms simultaneously, but weren’t aware that the other girls were experiencing the same thing. They suffer from verbal and physical tics (uncontrollable sounds and spasms) fainting spells, shaking, seizures, and even in some cases, the inability to stand.
Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, a neurologist who’s treating 11 of the 12 girls, claims they are suffering from “conversion disorder,” which is also known as mass hysteria. His hypothesis is that the first girl to come down with the symptoms was highly stressed, and that the other girls subconsciously “caught” the disease because their brain was tricked itself into thinking the illness was contagious. The general consensus is that these girls are suffering from a sort of group psychological disorder, and not one cause by a phsyical problem. If that’s the case, then how can they explain why some of the girls had no idea the other girls were experiencing the same things?
School officials from LeRoy Junior-Senior High School, where the girls attend, released environmental reports showing no signs of toxic chemicals on the campus, but famous environmental activist Erin Brockovich is challenging these reports. She’s currently looking at the water and soil around the school, but this weekend her team were refused entry onto the school grounds to collect samples. Her team, (which is being aided by a team sent in by Dr. Drew) are looking specifically for solvent tricholorethene, which leaked from a 1970 train accident near the school. The soil at the site of the train accident is confirmed to be toxic, and the question is whether or not the toxicity spread to the school. There are drums still at the site of the train derailment, and have continued to contaminate the soil for 40 years. Dr. Drew told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America this morning that Erin is getting continous emails from people in, or formerly from LeRoy community who have since graduated hospital reporting “tics, neurological symdromes, and little regions of cancer outbreak.”
Erin Brockovich, now an environmental activist, is famous for making a 1993 case against Pacific Gas and Electric for polluting a local pond with a powerful carcinogen. The case was settled in 2006 for $333 million. She was a legal clerk with zero training, making her fight more remarkable. Julia Roberts played Erin in the 2000 movie about Erin and the case.
The girls’ are suffering a great deal, and many of them have stopped going to school, and/or participating in their normal activities. Even if it turns out what they’re experiencing is purely psychological, that doesn’t mean that their symptoms aren’t “real” or that they’re imagined.
Here’s a Today Show video about the latest girl to come forward about experiencing the strange tics: