(NaturalNews) It happened about this same time a year ago, and now it's happening again.
Two more students from Le Roy junior and high school, near Rochester, N.Y., have been diagnosed with strange, mysterious tic-like symptoms once again, following a similar episode at the beginning of the 2011 school year, local reports said recently, though a physician who is treating one of the new patients has blamed the new symptoms on recent publicity about the earlier outbreak.
Some reports said the symptoms mirror those of Tourette Syndrome.
A local newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle, said more than a dozen students in the Genesee County school have reported displaying some unusual neurological symptoms beginning about a year ago. The incidents received an inordinate amount of media attention, peaking in early 2012 when a number of outside media outlets and advocates came to Le Roy to investigate.
Several health experts said they believe the symptoms were linked to conversion disorder, "in which psychological trauma or upset causes uncontrollable physical symptoms," the paper said.
Nothing has surfaced but the symptoms persist
These experts went on to warn that such psychogenic afflictions can often be triggered or worsened by publicity of the problem. They predicted the symptoms would go away once the publicity died down and the affected students could focus on their recovery out of the spotlight.
"Though details have been kept private," the paper said, "the afflicted students underwent treatment and various parties have said most or all of them saw their symptoms abate over time."
Now, two more students have suddenly began displaying the tics, according to Department of Health spokesman Jeffrey Hammond. They are under the care of private physicians, he added.
"DOH is aware of two Le Roy students with tic-like symptoms who are being treated by independent physicians," he said.
According to Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, a Buffalo-area neurologist who treated or consulted on a number of earlier Le Roy cases, the two newly afflicted students are also suffering from a mass psychogenic illness.
Mechtler told a local TV news affiliate, WGRZ, that he has seen one of the two new cases already, and is scheduled to meet with the other. The station reported that Mechtler linked the two newest cases, as well as the recent recurrence of symptoms in a third patient, to local media coverage of an Aug. 22 meeting which took place in public in Le Roy that was called by environmental advocate Erin Brockovich.
That meeting, in which an associate ran after Brockovich and reportedly fell ill, focused in part on the neurological outbreak and partly on the town's environmental issues.
Not satisfied with diagnosis
School officials have conducted several rounds of testing at the Le Roy school for chemicals or compounds that could have caused the symptoms but so far nothing has been found. Hammond has said city and school officials are sure that environmental factors and infections aren't to blame for the two new cases.
"There are no adverse health impacts from our contaminants in the air, soil or water in or around our high school campus," said Kim Cox, Le Roy Central School District's superintendent of schools.
Conversion Disorder is a sort of catch-all term used to describe physical symptoms caused by stress, trauma or mass hysteria but which originate in the mind, experts say.
"But many of the affected kids, their parents, concerned locals and outside experts are unhappy with that diagnosis, especially as the number of teens with symptoms has risen to 15 in recent weeks," Karen Schrock, of the Scientific American, wrote in February, following the initial outbreak of symptoms.