A progressive neurological disease affecting young people in New Brunswick, Canada, for the past two years is more widespread than previously thought.
The disease is characterized by symptoms like insomnia, hallucinations, rapid weight loss, difficulty thinking, and limited mobility. The affected young people had no prior health triggers, reported The Guardian.
It was originally thought that 48 people in the Canadian province were affected, but as many as 150 people may actually have been impacted, according to an employee with one of the province’s two health authorities, Vitalité Health Network, who spoke to The Guardian.
"I’m truly concerned about these cases because they seem to evolve so fast," the employee revealed to The Guardian on Sunday. "I’m worried for them, and we owe them some kind of explanation."
The Vitalité Health worker is speaking out because of the deteriorating conditions of patients and because of frustration over the lack of investigation and testing in New Brunswick. Nine cases have been recorded in which two people in close contact developed symptoms.
An epidemiological report showed no significant evidence of any environmental factors. Scientists, however, believe that high concentrations of β-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), a toxin found in algae blooms locally, could be the cause.
Documents obtained by the newspaper through freedom of information requests also reveal that Canada’s public health agency considered BMAA as a possible cause, but required the province to order testing.
"The fact that we have a younger spectrum of patients here argues very strongly against what appears to be the preferred position of the government of New Brunswick — that the cases in this cluster are being mistakenly lumped together," said a scientist at Canada’s public health agency, who was also not authorized to speak to The Guardian.
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