At least six people have died and 48 more have fallen ill from a mystery illness in New Brunswick, Canada. Many reported feeling forgetful and easily confused by the strange illness. Local government is now racing to unearth more about the mystery progressive neurological syndrome as there is currently no known cause. Out of the six people reported dead, their ages ranged from 18 to 85.
As well as confusion and brain fuzziness, people have also reported feeling an unusual mix of symptoms, with anxiety, dizziness, hallucinations, pain, memory problems and progressive loss of mobility all forming a mix bizarre effects on brain.
Investigations have been launched.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) sounded the alarm an alert about a large batch of unusual neurological cases in the region late last year.
The agency provided specialized expertise early in the investigation by interpreting diagnostic and autopsy results.
They worked with a New Brunswick neurologist to identify a case definition for the cluster.
PHAC has said that the province of New Brunswick is now leading the investigation, and the federal agency’s role is a supportive one.
But the patient safety organization Blood Watch has raised concerns.
The group has stressed that PHAC should take the lead on the investigation, and has called on the federal agency to “immediately resume its investigation into the root cause” of the cluster.
In a letter addressed to federal Health Minister Patty Hadju and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam at the end of September, Blood Watch wrote: “families in New Brunswick deserve answers, which are supported by full scientific rigour, as to why their family members have perished and why patients are becoming ill from painful and debilitating neurological diseases.”
Dr Alier Marrero, a neurologist, said: “This is a territory where we have a lot to do in general in science because neurodegeneration [causes] the diseases of our time.
“We don’t have a cure for any one of them.”
Dr Marrero has seen some cases within families but does not believe this is a genetic syndrome.
He said there are cases of “biologically unrelated” patients who live together and have similar symptoms.