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Mysterious ‘Mass Hysteria’ Girls Are Recovering in Equally Mysterious Ways

Illustration for article titled Mysterious ‘Mass Hysteria’ Girls Are Recovering in Equally Mysterious Ways

Remember the dozen girls from an upstate New York high school who suddenly started suffering from uncontrollable body movements and tics last month? They're getting better, although officials differ as to exactly how or why.

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Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, the medical director at nearby DENT Neurologic Institute who diagnosed the girls with "conversion disorder," a vague and rare illness in which people experience neurological symptoms such as blindness and paralysis for seemingly no reason, said that at least two girls are "all better" and three more are almost there due to psychotherapy treatments and prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Other parents say the girls are recovering thanks to help from Dr. Rosario Trifiletti, who determined that most of the patients had PANDAS, an autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal infections that usually occurs in very young children. Trifiletti found that some of his patients also tested positive for pneumonia and lyme disease. (Note to self: never move to LeRoy.) Sounds complicated, but not half as eerie as "conversion disorder," and families say the antibiotics Trifiletti prescribed have been helping — one mother said her daughter had fewer "headaches, stomachaches, no tic-ing and she's been more energetic" after being treated by Trifiletti.

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But what about Erin Brockovich's theory that the illnesses are related to a cyanide spill that took place during a 1970 train wreck near the girls' high school? Her team hasn't found anything yet (maybe they need to call in Julia Roberts?), but they're still looking for evidence, and the EPA is planning to remove some suspect barrels to ease the community's peace of mind in the meantime.

The local consensus in the tiny village of only 8,000 people is that it doesn't really matter why the girls are getting better, just that they are and that the town is no longer in the spotlight. "A lot of my friends have said, 'Why are you going to LeRoy for dinner?' and they think the restaurants are infected, when they are absolutely not." one peeved resident said. Oookay, way to make it all about yourself, lady — although a DENT doctor told reporters that the declining media attention is also helping the girls get better. I wish them all the speediest of recoveries, because I genuinely care about their health, but also so that we can all enjoy an Erin Brockovich-meets-The-Crucible mega-blockbuster. That would be awesome.

Doc: 2 teens with tic-like mystery illness 'all better' [MSNBC]
Twitching mystery patients show signs of recovery [CNN]

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DISCUSSION

monotremasaurus-rextraordaire-old
Monotremasaurus Rextraordaire

I think more skepticism is needed regarding the Rifiletti diagnosis

[healthland.time.com]

1) He hasn't examined any of the girls in question.

2) PANDAS doesn’t usually occur in clusters.

3) Strep is extremely common and PANDAS is very rare

4) Tic disorders, like childhood-onset OCD, are about three times as common in boys as girls, so if you had a ‘tic epidemic,’ one would expect to see 40 to 60 boys, if 14 girls were affected

Seriously, Jez, you need a science editor.