Canadian health officials say that the mysterious brain disease is 'happening and probably spreading'

Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick, Canada. © Reuters / John Morris

In Canada, a new outbreak of a strange sickness has made headlines. In recent months, a neurological condition known as New Brunswick Syndrome has afflicted dozens of people in the province that gave it its name, killing six of them.

At least 48 persons, mostly men, and women, aged 18 to 85, have been suffering from an unidentified sickness that has caused their health to rapidly deteriorate. Visual and auditory hallucinations, memory loss, difficulties walking, and balance concerns are among the symptoms of the unknown illness, which has so far claimed the lives of six people.

The government of New Brunswick, which is located on the Atlantic coast and is most affected by the outbreak, stepped up its efforts this week to combat the outbreak, which had been overshadowed until recently by the coronavirus pandemic. The study into the New Brunswick Cluster of Neurological Syndrome of Unknown Cause has been accelerated by the formation of an expert group.

“The finding of a potentially new and unknown illness is frightening,” New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said at a news conference on Thursday, adding that the new condition has left residents “concerned and confused.”

For the past few years, residents of the province have been experiencing alarming symptoms that appear to derive from the same unexplained brain-damaging ailment, but no cause has been uncovered. Environmental and animal exposure have been investigated by health officials, but there is still a lot of uncertainty.

“At this time, we don't have any answers. Everything has been laid out on the table. Dr. Edouard Hendriks, one of the committee co-chairs, stated, "We're going to look at every possibility and, hopefully, we'll... create a good understanding." Dr. Natalie Banville, the other specialist, agreed that no advice can be offered to people on how – or whether – they can protect themselves from the sickness because the cause has yet to be discovered.

“We're looking into it. “We don't have any environmental reasons, genetic causes, medicine causes — we don't have any proven reasons,” Banville added.

Contamination by poisons, bacteria, or a virus is among the possibilities being investigated.

Health officials have devised a lengthy questionnaire to try to solve the riddle. It can take up to four hours to complete and is aimed at both patients and their families. A dedicated clinic has also been established to diagnose and treat suspected patients.

Luc Leblanc, who has been diagnosed with an unknown condition, told CTV News in Canada, "It's still a tremendous shock." The 41-year-old guy stated, "I never got any answers that I was seeking, or how to cope, or how to extend my life." He has memory loss and focuses issues, and he describes his situation as "a ticking bomb." “You have no idea how much longer you have,” he continued.

The unexplained brain illness has also flipped another patient's life upside down. Gabrielle Cormier, who was diagnosed at the age of 20, has neurological symptoms such as eye issues and abrupt walking and standing inabilities. “I can't read, which is unfortunate because I enjoy reading. I'm unable to move... “Before, I was really active,” she told CTV News.

Officials revealed this week that residents in the area have been "frustrated" for months. Locals are now seeking frequent public briefings on the disturbing issue, citing a lack of communication and transparency from health officials.

Dr. Alier Marrero, a local neurologist, first noticed the condition in New Brunswick in 2015. More cases have appeared over time, with identical dementia symptoms and unusual muscle movements, among other illnesses. When the number of persons impacted began to rise, the doctor realized he was dealing with something never seen previously in the medical community and raised the alarm.

In December 2020, right before the pandemic, a possible cluster of illnesses was found. The mystery sickness was only made public after an internal memo from a top medical officer was leaked in March of this year.

“The number of instances has climbed every year since 2018.” We have no idea why. We have no idea what's causing this. We know it's happening, and it's definitely spreading,” Marrero told the Toronto Star, adding that "we're exposed to something we've never been exposed to before."

Publish : 2021-06-05 20:49:00

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