Mystery outbreak of tourette's at US school baffles doctors

Bianca Ffolkes

A number of pupils from a US high school have been struck by a mysterious Tourette’s-type illness leaving doctors baffled as to how they contracted it.

15 girls from the Le Roy High School in New York, USA have developed the disorder in the past few months.

Symptoms include uncontrolled verbal outbursts and twitching and stuttering in some cases.

Dr. Jennifer McVige, a pediatric neurologist at the DENT Neurologic Institute who is treating many of the students affected, said she used the “diagnosis of exclusion” to establish their strange mannerisms using the process of elimination.

After an in-depth investigation by the New York State Health Department as well as school officials, Le Roy School District Superintendent Kim Cox says they had ruled out environmental factors being the cause of the unusual outbreak along with carbon monoxide, infections and the use of illegal drugs.

However environmental activist Erin Brockovich is now involved and is aiming to get to the bottom of it.

[See also: Prostate cancer discovered in ancient mummy]


Brockovich, who famously linked cancer cases with toxic drinking water in California in 2003, is going to investigate the cause of the illness along with other environmentalists.

They will look into whether the girls’ mysterious behaviour has anything to do with a toxic chemical spill that occurred near the school in 1970 that could have contaminated the water and ground.

Doctors say the symptoms could be due to conversion disorder which occurs when high levels of stress manifest physically.

Jeffrey Hammond of the New York State Health Department said: “There are many causes of tic-like symptoms. Stress can often worsen them. The doctors all agree that the symptoms these girls are experiencing are real.”

Thera Sanchez, one of the girls with the illness, told NBC last week: “I used to cheer every day ... I used to go to two art classes every day, now I'm not in school.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, females are much more likely to get conversion disorder and it is more common in adolescents or young adults.

How to deal with nits

Most vocational subjects dropped from GSCE league tables

Is smacking allowed?