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Mystery Illness Affects Upstate New York Teens

A mystery illness has been producing Tourette's-like symptoms in over a dozen upstate New York teen girls and one boy from LeRoy High School in Genesee County. The illness, which manifests in twitches and spasms, began affecting the high school teens at LeRoy last fall. Additionally, two teenage girls from Corinth, located in Saratoga County, are exhibiting similar symptoms, one of which whom traveled to LeRoy High School last year on a softball trip. It has also been learned that this same illness is also affecting a 36-year old nurse practitioner who has spent her whole life in Town of LeRoy.

This mystery illness has caught national media attention and the attention of the National Institute of Health. Dr. Laszlo Mechtler of the Dent Neurological Institute in Buffalo, New York has treated ten of the teenagers afflicted with the illness and has diagnosed them with "conversion disorder", which is known as a mass psychogenic illness. According to Dr. Mechtler, this disorder "occurs in small groups, especially in schools in small towns." Dr. Mechtler recently told NBC that "[w]hat happens is that one individual-the so-called index case-may have a neurological disorder . . . and then, all of a sudden, several other ladies have similar symptoms."

The illness has also captured the attention of environmental activist, Erin Brockovich, who is speaking out about a 1970 train accident that spilled cyanide and industrial solvent four miles from LeRoy High School. According to a 1999 EPA report, approximately 35,000 gallons of trichloroethene contaminated that area.

The New York State Department of Health told NBC News in January that "we have conclusively ruled out any form of infection or communicable disease and there's no evidence of any environmental factor" at the school.

Brockovich's scientific team is currently collecting ground samples and testing the area in LeRoy and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is also researching the disorder.

Dreyer Boyajian LLP is a law firm specializing in mass tort and environmental tort cases, having prosecuted several class actions on behalf of aggrieved persons across Upstate New York. To read more about our environmental practice, click here. To speak with one of our personal injury attorneys, contact our firm for a free consultation.

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