By DANIEL BATES
Daily Mail UK
Facebook and YouTube could be to blame for the spread of the mystery Tourrette’s-like illness that is blighting a town in upstate New York. Doctors said that symptoms are being ‘reinforced and magnified’ because victims of the bizarre condition are uploading videos of themselves onto social networking sites to appeal for help.
They argue that when other people in the town of LeRoy view the videos, they are unconsciously mimicking what they see and spreading it around. The true cause of the illness is still a mystery and there no formal suggestion that Facebook or any of the other social networking websites are to blame.
But David Lichter, professor of neurology at the University of Buffalo, who has treated several of the patients, said he might now understand how it has affected so many people. He told MSNBC: ‘It’s remarkable to see how one individual posts something, and then the next person who posts something not only are the movements bizarre and not consistent with known movement disorders, but it’s the same kind of movements.
‘This mimicry goes on with Facebook or YouTube exposure. This is the modern way that symptomology could be spread.’ In total 19 patients have come forward with Tourette’s like symptoms since last Fall, which include uncontrollable facial and body twitching.
They include 14 girls aged between 13 and 18 and this week the first adult victim, 36-year-old nurse practitioner Marge Fitzsimmons. Among those who have taken an interest in the case is environmental campaigner Erin Brockovich.
She has suggested that a chemical spill from a train derailment in the 1970s near the site of the girls’ school may be the cause. Researchers have also come up with a string of theories and believe teenagers may have been struck down by paediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome, or PANS, which is a kind of OCD linked to strep throat. Other believe that Morgellons could be to blame, which is a disease that causes patients to sprout painful sores.
Some doctors have also suggested it could be a mass psychogenic illness which can be triggered by stress and is spread from unconscious mimicry of one another. Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, chief of neurology at the Dent Neurologic Institute in Buffalo, said: ‘When one has a symptom, it can be reinforced and magnified with other individuals with similar symptoms.
‘That’s what’s going on with these girls. They are in a segregated small rural town in New York state. They are a cohesive group. And this wildfire of symptoms takes control.’ During an angry meeting on Saturday parents berated LeRoy schools officials and asked why the soil around natural gas well which had been dug on school ground had not been tested for contamination.