NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 30, 2013

Mysterious hiccuping has school under scrutiny

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 School.

“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.”

Essex Aggie, as it is nicknamed, serves about 500 students from throughout the county, among them students from the Newburyport area.

Bourgeois declined to speculate on 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 s@text1:aid. “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 Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “It is too early in the process to provide further details at this point.”

Danvers health director Peter Mirandi said that 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.

“I have no confirmed cases of something 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.

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