What if your child came home from school only to wake up the next morning with symptoms of Tourette syndrome? That's the confounding situation confronting the families of at least 13 girls from LeRoy Junior-Senior High School in upstate New York. Local officials aren't helping, insisting that there is no clear connection between the condition and the school. What's going on? Here's what you should know:
What happened to these girls?
In the case of 17-year-old Thera Sanchez, last fall she developed a "mysterious movement disorder, seemingly overnight," says Jacqueline Burt at The Stir. The girl's parents say her outbursts forced her to give up the things she used to enjoy doing, "from art to cheerleading to simply attending school." The strangest part? Twelve other girls from the high school reported experiencing the same Tourette-like symptoms.
What is Tourette syndrome?
It's a muscle disorder that typically shows up in childhood, between the ages of 7 and 10, and is more common in men than women. Tourette syndrome "is characterized by tics, which include things like eye-blinking, head-jerking, eye-darting, shoulder-shrugging, and yelling or throat-clearing — all of it uncontrolled."
Why would the symptoms hit so many people at once?
School officials say they've found no connection between the cases, infuriating the girls' parents. But neurologist Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, who is treating some of the girls, tells MSNBC the girls may be suffering from "conversion disorder," commonly referred to as mass hysteria. "It's happened before, all around the world," says Mechtler. "It's a rare phenomena. Physicians are intrigued by it." It occurs when patients appear to suffer from a common disease or ailment, typically after a stress event. Conversion disorder is psychologically rooted, but the symptoms are real. The bright side, Mechtler says, is that "the bottom line is these teenagers will get better."