Doctors familiar with the girls' treatment say the continuing news coverage has slowed progress they were making. They have recommended that all the girls see therapists. But that's easier said than done. There's a shortage of pediatric psychologists in that part of the state, McVige said.
Experts elsewhere have looked on curiously at the Le Roy story. One piece of footage prompted laughter this week among a group of physicians. They were watching a BBC report on the cases, which showed one girl with a jerking arm that suddenly became very controlled as she applied eyeliner and then jerked around again when she was done.
"It's almost impossible to conceive of a true neurological disorder that can allow for that complexity of switching back and forth," said Dr. Jose Maldonado, chief of psychosomatic medicine at Stanford University, who mentioned the group's reaction. "It also looks very purposeful. I'm not saying she's making it up. I'm just saying that it doesn't look neurological."
The AP was unable to reach the girl or her mother.
McVige acknowledged the other doctors' reaction. She recalled one examination in which the tic in one girl's arm stopped when a doctor forcefully held it, but then the other arm started moving. That also is not something generally seen in neurological disorders.
She said the Le Roy outbreak, at its core, is no hoax. But "now I think there's an overlay of some of the girls trying to prove 'there's something wrong with me,'" she added.
Calls from the AP to three of the girls were not returned. Brockovich did not respond to an email request for an interview, either.
Last week, while those cases were in the news, government doctors coincidentally released a long-awaited report on their investigation into an illness known as Morgellons (mor-GELL-uns).
The condition is marked by some bizarre symptoms, including sores, crawling sensations on the skin and — perhaps worst of all — mysterious fibers that the patients believe sprout from their skin. Anecdotal and media reports about cases six years ago led to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency found no environmental or physical cause for the cases; tests showed the fibers came from fabric, like clothing or blankets. Psychological evaluations suggested conversion disorder, said a neurologist who worked on the study.
Some specialists argue it doesn't fit in that category. Some believe Morgellons is a form of psychosis. Others insist these patients are not psychotic, but suffer from a less severe kind of psychological disorder which isn't well understood yet.
Also, at least some of the Morgellons patients probably don't have a psychological problem at all, said Dr. J. Michael Bostwick, a psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic who has studied delusions of infestation.
It turned out one woman had itchy skin that was caused by high calcium levels that developed from parathyroid tumors.
In past outbreaks, the symptoms of conversion disorder have tended to disappear in a matter of weeks or a few months. In Le Roy, many of the cases appeared around the beginning of the school year and were improving, but about half of the girls got worse after the wave of media attention and disputes about the cause of the illness.
Indeed, McVige said she has stopped forwarding media requests to her patients.
Anxiety and suspicion are continuing, fueled by YouTube, Facebook and other social media that weren't prevalent in earlier outbreaks, observed Robert Bartholomew, a sociologist who has studied mass hysteria for many years.
"There is a good chance that symptoms could spread to other students and last for several more months — even years," Bartholomew said in an email from New Zealand, where he teaches at a university.
Le Roy school district information: http://www.leroycsd.org/
Mayo Clinic information: