‘Nature’ provides FAQ on New York high school mystery illness

Nature has an update on the mystery illness in New York state.

Mystery US outbreak prompts further tests

Last week, officials with the LeRoy Central School District in northwestern New York state approved a plan for further environmental testing at the town’s high school, where 19 people — 18 girls and one boy — have developed a sudden-onset disorder with symptoms similar to the movement disorder Tourette’s syndrome. The outbreak has captured national attention and led experts to suggest an array of possible explanations — none of which seem to quite work. With speculation running high, here is a look at the facts surrounding the outbreak.


Tip: Fortean Times Daily

This seems to be a clear case of “conversion disorder” or mass hysteria. But that is not a popular diagnosis. It is not convincing to the victims and families who do not understand that that is a genuine condition. Instead, more funds will be spent trying to find a cause. As we reported before with some good references that help explain this case, this situation will likely not come to a satisfying close, may result in lawsuits or may result in implicating an environmental factor that is not actually an important player.

See here for related stories:

12 girls suffer mystery condition in NY (Updated: diagnosis)

Mystery illness story expands to next county

Brockovich gets involved in the New York mystery illness case

  6 comments for “‘Nature’ provides FAQ on New York high school mystery illness

  1. March 22, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    The conversion disorder diagnosis doesn’t explain why–if this is really mass hysteria–cases aren’t cropping up all over the country. One of the girls has a YouTube channel (rodeocowgirl131) with more than 15,000 hits where she talks about her illness at length. It also doesn’t explain why the NY Department of Health refused to include two of the initial symptomatic girls in their report. Nor does it explain how the first girl in Corinth got ill around the same time as the first girl in Le Roy, before the publicity started. The two girls didn’t know one another, and the first case in Le Roy wasn’t even known until it was uncovered in the DOH report.

    Conversion disorder–aka mass hysteria–is a catch-all label physicians use when they can’t or don’t want to figure out what’s really going on. These poor kids deserve the truth.

    • March 22, 2012 at 2:18 PM

      Because in their minds it’s linked to location, something local. That’s how “mass hysteria” works.

      You are bringing up anomalies that I can’t confirm (perhaps no one can or they CAN’T be). I don’t agree with your conclusion. There have been hundreds of cases of it. It’s an established social phenomena. I’m not saying they were ALL rightly explained as that but it was the explanation that best fit the evidence.

      If you dislike that theory, what is a better one? None of the environmental factors so far make any sense. There seem to have been no common situations found that might have been the source. The past environmental problems DO NOT match up so far (what does a spill 30 years ago have to do with kids experiencing this all in a short time span?). Maybe something better will turn up. But sometimes, you have to use the data you have to come to the best conclusion. That’s how science works. It ain’t foolproof but it’s better than the wild speculation that’s been going on with no basis in facts.

  2. March 22, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    I’m not sure how you know what’s “in their minds,” unless you purport to be a psychic.

    I’m not sure what anomalies you’re referring to…everything I mentioned is documented in the press if you do your research. The DOH report is available online. Contemporaneous interviews with the affected families establish the timeline of the outbreaks in Corinth and Le Roy. Dr. Trifiletti, a pediatric neurologist treating 9 of the 12 girls has repeatedly denied that conversion disorder is responsibile for the girls’ illness and mentioned Lyme Disease as a possibility in his initial press release. Since then, one of the girls has tested positive for Lyme as well as another tick-bourne bacteria. On the other hand, Dr. Lazlo Mechtler, the guy who went on television and insisted that the girls have conversion disorder, never actually examined the girls. And no, chalking symptoms up to hysteria and dismissing them is not how science works. Science works by the posing of questions then when those answers don’t add up, asking more questions.

    • March 22, 2012 at 5:55 PM

      And you are registered with a site called “secrets and conspiracies” dot blogspot. Sorry your credibility about science fails to pass with me. Throwing out this stuff and seeing what sticks isn’t going to work.

      This is a site that, generally, reports the news with tips on why you might question it. This case is FRAUGHT with problems. So far all they have is the diagnosis of conversion disorder. That makes the best sense with the evidence. When someone with credibility says otherwise based on solid evidence, it will be posted here.

      • March 23, 2012 at 11:22 AM

        I’m fully aware of where I’m registered. I did that for a purpose (registering with Discus specifically to add to the conversation on this site).

        Also, it’s interesting that a fully accredited pediatric neurologist with more than 20 years in practice seems to have no “credibility” with you. Here is an excerpt from the press release I referenced:

        “A PANDAS-like illness is my working diagnosis, rather than amass conversion disorder as others have suggested,” said Dr. Trifiletti. He has already started treating the girls with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory agents.
        When asked to comment on the continued insistence by Dr. Laszlo Mechtler that the girls have conversion disorder (or mass hysteria as Dr. Mechtler originally stated), Dr. Trifiletti said, “I’m confused by that because he’s never actually seen or interviewed any of the nine girls I examined.”

        I also find it interesting that your stated purpose is to “report the news with tips on why you might question it” when you seem to be promoting the conversion disorder (mis-?) diagnosis that’s been getting so much press in Time. My site’s only agenda is to pose questions so others can draw their own conclusions. Perhaps I’m wrong, but this hostile attitude seems like what you’re interested in is embarrassing anyone who doesn’t subscribe to your opinion.

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