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February 7th, 2012
02:26 AM ET

Doctor: Le Roy teens have PANDAS-like illness

On Monday night, New Jersey neurologist Dr. Rosario Trifiletti updated HLN’s Dr. Drew on the Pediatric Autoimmune Illness Associated with Streptococci (PANDAS) testing he has been doing on teen girls in Le Roy, N.Y. who have been affected by Tourette-like outbursts.

“We have some early results on some of the children,” Trifiletti said. “We’ve gotten the results, so far, [for] 6 of the 9 children back. I can tell you that they are testing positive – each one is testing for either Streptococcus or Mycoplasma, which are known triggers of the PANDAS syndrome.”

Read Dr. Trifiletti's full statement on his findings here.

Dr. Drew asked, “How do we distinguish between this sort of routine environmental exposure and something that would cause PANDAS?”

Trifiletti responded, "In fact, follow-up studies may be needed to determine whether there`s a rise in titers. But these are tests that would normally be accepted as showing evidence of either Streptococcus carriage or Mycoplasma exposure."

Trifeltti added that treatment involves antibiotics and anti-inflammatory agents, which he says, has already begun.

Trifeltti’s statement concludes:

As with most illnesses, there is a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors here. As with all illnesses, psychological factors likely play some role as well. All we have done here is provided evidence for exposure to two infectious agents as potential environmental factors. I would encourage efforts to further explore genetic and other environmental factors that likely are playing an additional role here.

Dr. Trifiletti also told Dr. Drew that he has not yet had any communication with Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, who diagnosed the girls with Conversion Disorder.

Hear the reaction of two mothers, whose daughters are suffering from the sudden tics and twitches, in the video clip above.

Get the latest updates on this story by watching "Dr. Drew" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HLN and follow the show on Twitter @DrDrewHLN.


Filed under: Illness • Medical mystery
February 4th, 2012
02:01 AM ET

NY Dept. of Health releases Le Roy report

Medical Mystery breaking news: The New York Department of Health just issued a report. It says that their investigation did not find infectious or environmental causes for these illnesses.

Plus, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says they will remove barrels from near a 1970 train derailment spill site.

Dr. Drew and his guests take a closer look. Watch.


Filed under: Illness • Medical mystery
February 3rd, 2012
11:25 AM ET

Le Roy families describe Medical Mystery anguish

The call for answers grows louder in Upstate New York. Why is a cluster of people in the village of Le Roy suffering from uncontrollable tics and verbal outbursts?

Lana Clark`s daughter Lauren is a sophomore at Le Roy Junior/Senior High School. She is one of the 16 known students at the school suffering from the “medical mystery.”

“Your heart just breaks,” Lana said. “It aches. I mean, this is your child. You don't want something like this for your children or even anybody else's children.”

Lana added, “She was scared. I was scared. She was upset. I mean, there were times that she broke down and started crying, and you know, although, being a parent, I have to be strong. I was ready to go cry, too.”

Charlene Leubner’s daughter, Traci, a junior at the school, suffers from the same medical ailment. Charlene was equally baffled by her daughter`s Tourette-like symptoms and unsatisfied with the diagnosis she received from doctors.

“What's going on?” she asks. “Is this something contagious? What's causing all of these girls at once to come down with the same sort of symptoms?”

As for Traci, who`s gone from the honor roll to failing grades, she just wants to get better.

“I don't want people to see me because everyone stares and says things they shouldn't, and it just makes me want to cry,” she said.

And it's not just the affected families who are suffering. Craig Bower’s daughter attends the school as well, and although she does not suffer from this medical mystery, he admits that he worries all of the time.

“I worry every day," he said. "I'm constantly monitoring her after a nap … I'm [asking], 'Is she OK?’ It is a hell of a way to live.”

Lauren Clark added, “I just want all of us to get better and just, like, I want all of this to stop. I want all of this pain to like go away.”

To follow every update in this developing story, don't miss Dr. Drew weeknights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HLN and follow on Twitter @DrDrewHLN.


Filed under: Illness • Medical mystery
February 3rd, 2012
03:49 AM ET

Medical mystery: Is gas being extracted by fracking?

The call for answers grows louder in Upstate New York. Why is a cluster of people in the town of Le Roy suffering from twitches and tics.

A new question is being raised: Is gas being extracted using a technique called fracking?

HLN correspondent Jim Spellman talked to HLN’s Dr. Drew Thursday about the six natural gas wells on a school's grounds and the so-called fracking method “where a liquid with water and some potentially very dangerous chemicals is injected into the ground to release the gas.”


Filed under: Illness • Medical mystery
February 2nd, 2012
06:23 PM ET

New York Medical Mystery: The Timeline

Several people from Le Roy, N.Y., continue to suffer from an illness that’s causing uncontrollable twitching and outbursts.

Numerous events that may or may not be linked have taken place in the area over time. Here are just some of them:

December 1970: A train derails in the town of Le Roy, spilling two chemicals: crystallized cyanide and tetrachloroethylene (TCE). The TCE was absorbed into the ground.

According to a 1997 report on the train derailment by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), one week after the spill in December 1970, owners of two private wells, located just east of the derailment site, noticed TCE in their water.

June 1971: A railroad company provides drinking water to residents with contaminated wells and installs charcoal-filtering systems at affected wells.

November 1971: Seven wells are confirmed contaminated

1990 and 1991: A 1997 report by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says that in 1990 and 1991, in response to another inactive hazardous waste disposal site, the New York State Department of Health sampled private water supplies east of the spill site and discovered TCE contamination in more than 35 private wells.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "sampling of private wells between 1990 and 1994 detected TCE in approximately 50 wells located east or southeast of the site." The EPA installed water-treatment systems at 37 locations where TCE levels were high.

August 2003: A public school, Le Roy Junior/Senior High School, opens about three-and-a-half miles from the site of the derailment.

October 2011: Several teens at the school spontaneously develop tics and twitches - various health agencies investigate

January 2012: Neurologists confirm what several of the teens` own doctors had diagnosed - that they suffer from conversion disorder or mass psychogenic illness. Almost all of those who have developed symptoms are teen girls who attended Le Roy Junior/Senior High School. One boy from the school is known to have symptoms. Also another woman from the town reports similar symptoms - a 36-year-old nurse.

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich and her team are looking into possible chemical causes. The medical community is not ruling that possibility out, but neurological experts stand by their findings.

To read full statements from organizations regarding the NY medical mystery, click here.

To follow every update in this developing story, don't miss "Dr. Drew" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HLN and follow on Twitter @DrDrewHLN.


Filed under: Illness • Medical mystery
February 2nd, 2012
01:49 AM ET

Le Roy superintendent releases bold statement; Brockovich associate strikes back

The superintendent of the Le Roy Central School District released a “letter to the community” Tuesday that left Erin Brockovich associate and environmental investigator Bob Bowcock with a strong response of his own.

A portion of Cox’s statement reads:

“Over the past few days, activities that have occurred in our community with respect to environmental testing by a representative who claimed to be working on behalf of Erin Brockovitch have taken center stage. This has been a distraction and taken us away from our mission to return normalcy to our school District, which every medical professional says is critical for the health and well-being of all students in our schools ... It was clearly staged as a publicity stunt with members of local and national media invited to participate."

Read the full statement here.

Bowcock told HLN's Dr. Drew Tuesday night, "Erin and I have been together for over 15 years. We`ve investigated somewhere over 500 cases like this on an annual basis, of which over 100 of them we'll actually physically go out in the field much like we did in Le Roy. At every instance, we are invited into the community by the members of the community, by family members, and by people that are concerned about their environment and sickness.”

Dr. Drew asked Bowcock if he felt that his credibility was being called into question.

“Yes,” he responded. “I`m a big boy. And Erin and I have been called a lot of things over the years, but I think this is probably the first time we've ever been called criminal ... when this was brought to my attention, there was a bit of an outrage and frankly that`s downgraded to just kind of almost pathetically sad. “

Dr. Drew then asked Anne Rabe, a campaign coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, if the school should welcome in additional organizations.

“They should,” she said. “Our organization and others are calling for the state environmental and health agencies and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to work with the school. Those are the environmental health experts that should be working with the school to do a transparent environmental investigation that looks fully at whether there`s any possible toxic exposure pathways and rules them out, once and for all.”

To follow every update in this developing story, don't miss "Dr. Drew" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HLN and follow on Twitter @DrDrewHLN.


Filed under: Illness • Medical mystery
February 2nd, 2012
01:22 AM ET

Controversy over Le Roy gas wells

The Le Roy Central School District has its own natural gas wells that supply the schools with fuel for heating and other purpose. The wells allegedly use a controversial technique called fracking. Dr. Drew takes a closer look.


Filed under: Illness • Medical mystery
February 1st, 2012
01:53 PM ET

Le Roy superintendent releases 'letter to community'

The following is a statement just released by Kim Cox, Superintendent of the Le Roy Central School District:

Letter to the Community

February 1, 2012

Over the past few days, activities that have occurred in our community with respect to environmental testing by a representative who claimed to be working on behalf of Erin Brockovitch have taken center stage. This has been a distraction and taken us away from our mission to return normalcy to our school District, which every medical professional says is critical for the health and well-being of all students in our schools. As we have communicated, we have been working closely for months with numerous medical professionals, the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. All of these agencies and professionals from these agencies have assured us that our school is safe. There is no evidence of an environmental or infectious cause. Environmental causes would not discriminate. We would see a wide range of people affected.

The community should take assurance that the Department of Health concluded extensive reviews of both the epidemiology and the clinical evaluations and found no evidence of environmental or infection as the cause of the students’ illness. Again, an environmental exposure would affect many people. The school was tested for total Volatile Organic Compounds by an independent firm. The school is served by the Monroe County Water Authority. This system is monitored on a regular basis. In addition, we have just been informed that water samples taken from the inside of the school as an additional precaution have been tested and determined to be safe. The treating physicians at the Dent Institute ruled out PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders associated with Streptococcal infections), a condition that sometimes causes this behavior. The Gardasil vaccine was ruled out because many of the girls did not receive the vaccine.

In addition, to help assist the district with assessing all aspects of this situation, we hired our own independent environmental expert to conduct a review of the findings and offer alternative approaches if needed. This was done not because we questioned the state medical professionals or federal agencies, but to help reassure the community. There are also some individuals who are attempting to connect the 1970 Lehigh Valley Railroad train derailment that spilled Trichloroethene (TCE) to the school. In fact, the TCE plume has been shown as moving in the opposite direction of the school, some three miles away.

The individual who came onto school property this past Saturday did not identify himself, did not show his credentials, and did not contact us ahead of time to offer assistance or coordinate with our efforts. Nor did this individual demonstrate that the testing approach was in accordance with scientific methods. It was clearly staged as a publicity stunt with members of local and national media invited to participate. We know this because the media arrived well in advance of this individual. In fact, one member of the media entered the school without permission and interrupted the preparations for an on-site program. Of course they were asked to leave. I am charged with keeping this entire school, staff, students and grounds safe. Not knowing this individual’s intention, I had no idea if he was there to get something or leave something.

Our administration and staff are exceptional and have been diligently working under stressful situations to try to maintain a supportive educational environment. This has been extremely challenging given the irresponsible tactics and programming by the national media. Speculation and reporting of erroneous information by those who have none of the information that has been compiled over months of study by leading professionals is confusing our community. It is also heightening the level of anxiety of all our students and especially jeopardizing the recovery of those affected students, many who had recovered or been showing signs of improvement. These kids want to get better. As a community, we need to support each other and these students by ensuring our school environment is nurturing and safe. I want to thank the members of our local media who have been engaging in responsible reporting.

I know we all want what is best for the children. We are all frustrated, tired and saddened by this turn of events as it is affecting the entire community. I am confident we will work through it, but I do believe it will take some time. My role as Superintendent of this District is to ensure I am providing the best possible educational environment conducive to learning and allowing our children to excel to the best of their ability. I am not an environmental scientist or medical professional, and therefore, cannot always be the spokesperson for highly technical and medical explanations nor answer questions that require in-depth technical knowledge. Questions of this nature must be addressed to those professionals and answered by these professionals. I have been trying to increase the direct communication from these agencies as well as putting forth new information as it is received. I know it is frustrating not to have definitive answers or wait for test findings. I want to assure you that all technical professionals involved are doing everything they can to expedite the process and communicate any new information as it is received.

I know this has been an emotionally hard situation and we all hope for the speedy recovery of our students. Please know we welcome your questions and suggestions, and take all under consideration. We will continue to communicate with you as soon as we have new information to share.

Kim M. Cox
Superintendent of Schools


Filed under: Illness • Ilness • Medical mystery
February 1st, 2012
01:00 PM ET

Mothers: They're not faking symptoms

Lana Clark and Charlene Leubner both have daughters that are being affected by Tourette-like symptoms in Le Roy, New York.

Dr. Drew asked what they say to people who insist the girls are faking their symptoms.

“Live with the girls for just one week and you’ll see that they’re not faking,” Leubner said. “You can’t fake something like this. It’s way too much pain, and just the way that they twitch or the way that their outbursts are - it’s impossible to fake.

If what the teens are experiencing is, indeed, conversion disorder, should the community expect more cases? Dr. Drew asked psychiatrist Dr. John Sharp.

“If it’s a conversion cluster, Drew, we’d see an increase in cases to a point,” Dr. Sharp said. “We don’t exactly know what that is. It may have already passed, and then you start to see a decrease. It’s a very treatable condition. So in terms of treatment, conversion is not a bad answer to this question.”

Dr. Drew added, “and a reminder that if it’s a toxic insult to the brain, that’s a worse prognostic situation than conversion. “Conversion is not faking. It’s not malingering, which is a different disorder.”

Dr. Sharp also noted, “It’s not conscious. You just can’t say snap out of it. You’ve got to find a way to address an underlying problem.”

To follow every update in this developing story, don't miss "Dr. Drew" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HLN and follow on Twitter @DrDrewHLN.


Filed under: Illness • Ilness • Medical mystery
February 1st, 2012
03:52 AM ET

New photos show activity at Le Roy spill area

A father of one of the teenage girls that's been affected by an illness that causing Tourette-like symptoms, took photos Tuesday of activity near a 1970 train derailment site in Le Roy, N.Y. Tuesday.

The father, who didn't want to be identified, reported the following:

“Another truck came in - Paragon Environmental Construction - They came in ... and they inspected the barrels, lifted some of the lids, went in the back to the other barrels back there that you can't see - kicked a few of them. Then another car came in, and then they started unloading coolers. I believe they unloaded over 15 coolers. They put them inside the construction trailer and then they packed up and left. The toxins are leaking out of the barrels. They're just open and nobody cares. This is it. This is why my daughter is sick. I know it is. What scares me is there is no cure.”

It was the first time Erin Brockovich associate and environmental investigator Bob Bowcock had seen the photos as they were shown on HLN’s Dr. Drew Tuesday night.

“It plays on what I talked about last night," he said. "Apparently somebody at EPA dropped the ball or EPA - the institution - dropped the ball in not physically supervising the site."

The Environmental Protection Agency released a statement earlier this week:

The EPA is aware of the parents and community's concerns and we are working closely with the school district and all of the involved state agencies to give them information related to the Lehigh Valley Derailment Superfund site about 4 miles from the school.

While EPA is gathering information about actions that took place at the Lehigh site before the site became a federal Superfund site, we do not believe pollution from either site is impacted the school. As we gather all of the facts, we will keep the community, our state partners and the school district up to date. In addition, there is another Superfund site about 10 miles east of the school that EPA also believes has no impact on the school.

On Tuesday the EPA added:

At this point, we are still gathering some information and don't have anything to add to what we said yesterday. The one new item is that we are sampling drums as a first step to moving them off the site. Once we have that data we will share it.

After viewing the photos in the video clip above, let us know what you think is being done in the comments section.

*Note – HLN cannot confirm that Paragon Environmental Construction is affiliated with the EPA.

To follow every update in this developing story, don't miss "Dr. Drew" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HLN and follow on Twitter @DrDrewHLN.


Filed under: Illness • Medical mystery
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