Environmental activist Erin Brockovich and cable TV talk show host Dr. Drew Pinsky have increased the media attention on the mystery illness that has afflicted more than a dozen upstate New York teenagers.
But what’s behind the illness, which has reportedly stricken 17 teenagers at Le Roy High School?
Health experts have told reporters they believe the strange tics and Tourette’s-like symptoms may be caused by a condition known as “conversion disorder.” When a group of people are afflicted, as in the Le Roy cases, doctors term the disorder “mass psychogenic illness” — once known as “mass hysteria.”
Authorities say mass psychogenic illness is often triggered by stress or emotional distress. The symptoms spread through groups, experts say, as individuals mirror one another’s behaviors – often subconsciously.
As outlandish as it seems, the stress-induced symptoms are real and not imagined in people who suffer from them – even if risk assessments can find no underlying cause.
School District officials have told local media they’ve been working with medical professionals and the state Department of Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also been consulted and National Institutes of Health offered to perform testing on the teens.