DANVERS — Local and state health officials are investigating reports that more than a dozen students are exhibiting mysterious vocal tics or hiccups at Essex Agricultural and Technical High.
”The school is willing to do whatever the town and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health want to do,” said Essex Aggie Superintendent-Director Roger Bourgeois. “The health and well being of our kids is our No. 1 priority.”
Bourgeois declined to speculate as to what may be the cause.
“As soon as we were made aware of it, we contacted the health officials of the towns and the Mass. Department of Public Health,” Bourgeois said. “We are cooperating fully with the experts.”
”The Department of Public Health has been contacted by local officials and it is providing technical assistance to the community,” said Anne Roach, media relations manager for the Department of Public Health. “It is too early in the process to provide further details at this point.”
Danvers Health Director Peter Mirandi said no case has been confirmed through a physician. In the absence of a diagnosis from a doctor or lab tests, Mirandi said health officials cannot determine what may be at work.
“We don’t know if it’s a contagious disease or an environmentally induced disorder. It’s not responsible for me to say anything further on it,” said Mirandi, who was concerned that drawing attention to the issue could do more harm than good.
The Department of Public Health provided Mirandi with a copy of its Center for Environmental Health May 2006 study called “Evaluation of a Potential Cluster of Motor and Vocal Tic Disorders Among Children in Ipswich Massachusetts” after neurological motor tics were reported in that town. The study did not find any environmental or other cause for the tics in school-age children.
At Essex Aggie, around the November-December time frame, two to three parents contacted Mirandi’s office, school officials and Mirandi said. There was a meeting of school officials and nurses and the towns’ health officials, and the state Department of Public Health was notified.