Early case may have led to mass hysteria, state health department report says
The twitching illnesses that have befallen a growing number of Le Roy students may have begun with a few girls with conditions traceable to concrete neurological causes.
Three of the original 12 Le Roy Junior-Senior High School students who came down with tic symptoms over the past few months had pre-existing medical conditions — including one diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, according to a nine-page report released late Friday by the state Department of Health.
“Two of the three cases, who were tic-free for a period of time, experienced an exacerbation of tic symptoms during this time period,” the report stated.
These students’ pre-existing conditions might have led to the cascading effect of mass hysteria among the other students who have since been identified as having Tourette-like symptoms. The News had previously reported such a possibility could exist.
“We always were looking for the index case,” Dr. Lazlo Mechtler of Dent Neurologic Institute said Friday, referring to a medical case early on that could have influenced the other affected students. “Four of the cases never came to us.”
There are now 18 known cases of Le Roy students, as well as two adults, who have come down with illnesses involving involuntary twitches, movements and gestures, according to the Department of Health. Three have come to the attention of the Health Department in just the past few days.
All but one of the students are female.
This fast-moving story continues to change on a daily basis. On Friday, the Le Roy Central School District announced a community meeting will be held in the high school auditorium at 9 a.m. today to share plans for additional environmental testing by an outside firm.
Political leaders also raised new concerns about moving steel drums of potentially toxic material from a Le Roy Superfund site that stemmed from a 1970 train derailment and chemical spill.
In the Health Department’s first published report on the Le Roy outbreak, state health officials accept and support the conversion disorder diagnosis of treating physicians for the bulk of the afflicted students.
Of the original 12 students, ranging in age from 13 to 19, eight were diagnosed by physicians as having conversion disorder, real physical symptoms stemming from an underlying psychological cause.
The department also said it is still awaiting a final diagnosis on most of the remaining cases.
The students diagnosed with conversion disorder “all had significant life stressors,” the report stated.
The first case in the bizarre tic outbreak occurred in May. Three more cases appeared in September, and another four were identified in October, the month that the state Department of Health launched its investigation, according to the report.
Additional cases appeared in late November and December and more have popped up in Janurary and this month as international media attention on the tic outbreak has grown.
Of the original 12 cases, gender and attendance at Le Roy Junior-Senior High School was the only common factor. All 12 students were initially evaluated by WorkFit Medical, and eight of the 12 were subsequently evaluated by Dent.
“No common in-school or after school activities among the entire group were identified,” the report stated. “Four participated in cheerleading and two participated in soccer.
Toxicology screens were performed in seven cases, and five turned up negative. Tests for heavy metals in five of the cases were all negative.
One correction made by the Department of Health is in regard to the Gardasil vaccine, which protects against the human papillomavirus. It remains true that not all the girls received the vaccine, but eight of the original 12 did, according to the report. The department previously had stated that only two of the girls received the vaccine.
The Health Department still discounts Gardasil as a cause for the tic disorders, however, because not all the girls received the vaccine, and a safety study involving nearly 190,000 females showed no association between the vaccine and neurologic disorders.