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Wagners Investigates New Brunswick’s Mysterious Neurological Disease as a Class Action

On March 5, 2021, Radio-Canada obtained an internal memorandum, from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, addressed to the New Brunswick Medical Society and to the Associations of Doctors and Nurses of New Brunswick. This government document warns that a mysterious neurological disease, with symptoms similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob, has been spreading in a particular region of the Province. The symptoms of this mysterious, as-yet unidentified, illness are also said to be similar to “mad cow” disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).[1]

Since this memorandum was leaked to the press, there has been significant public outcry from both the public and politicians, demanding further information on the mysterious neurological disease, which has spread through the Acadian Peninsula. Members of the public are concerned by the fact that this disease first appeared several years ago, in 2015, but no public warnings had been issued. Cases of this unknown illness appear to be increasing year over year,[2] and some individuals are now coming forward claiming they have been suffering the symptoms of the disease for years. [3]

What is the Mysterious Disease?

The mysterious disease is a prion disease which results in abnormally folded brain protein causing brain and organs deterioration.[4] The mysterious disease has similar symptoms to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and variants including mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).[5] The mysterious disease affects all age groups and the median age of those suffering is believed to be 58 years old.[6]

What are the Symptoms and Treatment of the Mysterious Disease?

The mysterious disease symptoms are similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and include: [7]

  • changes in behaviour
  • dementia
  • muscle spasms
  • weight loss
  • sleep disturbances
  • unexplained pain
  • visual hallucinations
  • co-ordination problems
  • muscle atrophy
  • brain atrophy

These symptoms progress over a period of 18 to 36 months.[8] As the mysterious disease has yet to be identified, there is no specific treatment.[9] Five individuals have died as result of the mysterious disease.[10]

How Many Cases of the Mysterious Disease are there?

The first case of the mysterious disease dates back to 2015.[11] In 2019, 11 cases were identified.[12] In 2020, 24 cases were identified.[13] As of March 5, 2021, six cases were identified in 2021.[14] As of March 17, 2021, the Public Health Agency of Canada was monitoring 40 cases.[15]

Where is the Mysterious Disease Concentrated?

New Brunswick health officials have reported there have been 35 cases in the Acadian Peninsula (the northeast region of New Brunswick) and eight cases in the Moncton Area.[16] However, there may be other geographical clusters that have not been detected.[17]

What is the Cause of the Mysterious Disease?

Dr. Alier Marrero, Neurologist, of Moncton’s Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, who is leading a research group on the disease, has reported that it is not genetic and could be contracted from water, food, or air.[18] The Public Health Agency of Canada believes the mysterious neurological disease has a singular cause.[19] The focus of the cause of the disease is currently environmental toxins.[20]

What is Being Done to Determine What is the Mysterious disease?

Michael Coulthart, head of the Canadian Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance System, for the Public Health Agency of Canada, is investigating the mysterious disease, whereas Dr. Alier Marrero, Neurologist, is leading a research group for the Province of New Brunswick.

If someone is suspected to have the mysterious disease a barrage of tests are conducted, including:[21]

  • toxicology tests
  • brain and body imaging
  • metabolic tests
  • genetic testing
  • spinal taps are all conducted to rule out everything from lupus to autoimmune disorders to Lyme disease.

As well, the researchers conduct questionnaires regarding lifestyle, travel, professions, and place of residence of those they believe are suffering from the illness.[22] The purposes of these tests and questionnaires is to identify commonalities. Of the five individuals who have died as result of the disease only three autopsies have been conducted.[23]

Chronology of Investigation of the Mysterious Disease

In 2015, the first case of the mysterious disease was identified.[24]

In 2019, 11 cases were identified.[25]

In 2020, 24 cases were identified.[26]

On March 5, 2021, Radio-Canada obtained an internal memo from New Brunswick’s office of the chief medical officer of health to the New Brunswick Medical Society and to the Associations of Doctors and Nurses. In this memo the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jennifer Russell, warned the medical community to be on the lookout for a mysterious neurological disease.[27]

As of March 5, 2021, six cases were identified in 2021.[28]

As a result of the Radio-Canada reporting, individuals who believed they had been suffering from the disease started to come forward. [29]

As of March 17, 2021, the Public Health Agency of Canada was monitoring 40 cases.[30]

On March 19, 2021, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell, conducted a question-and-answer period on the mysterious disease.[31]

On March 23, 2021, The Green Party Leader, David Coon, criticized health officials for only recently publicly acknowledging the mysterious disease that officials have known about since 2015.[32]

As of March 26, 2021, the Public Health Agency of Canada has ruled out the mysterious neurological disease as being a “prion disease” such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.[33]

[1] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/brain-disease-cases-public-health-1.5953478; https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-cases-nb-1.5955035
[2] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/researcher-says-brain-disorder-in-n-b-may-be-linked-to-environmental-exposure-1.5363850; https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/mystery-neurological-disease-nb-coulthart-1.5959280
[3] https://globalnews.ca/news/7715797/new-brunswick-mysterious-brain-disease/
[4] https://www.cp24.com/news/ask-questions-but-don-t-panic-about-mysterious-n-b-brain-syndrome-experts-1.5355355
[5] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/brain-disease-cases-public-health-1.5953478; https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-cases-nb-1.5955035
[6] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/brain-disease-cases-public-health-1.5953478; https://globalnews.ca/news/7707318/questions-answers-new-brunswick-top-doctor-mysterious-brain-disease/
[7] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/researcher-says-brain-disorder-in-n-b-may-be-linked-to-environmental-exposure-1.5363850; https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/brain-disease-cases-public-health-1.5953478
[8] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/brain-disease-cases-public-health-1.5953478 
[9] https://globalnews.ca/news/7707318/questions-answers-new-brunswick-top-doctor-mysterious-brain-disease/
[10] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/researcher-says-brain-disorder-in-n-b-may-be-linked-to-environmental-exposure-1.5363850
[11] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/researcher-says-brain-disorder-in-n-b-may-be-linked-to-environmental-exposure-1.5363850
[12] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/mystery-neurological-disease-nb-coulthart-1.5959280
[13] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/mystery-neurological-disease-nb-coulthart-1.5959280
[14] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/brain-disease-cases-public-health-1.5953478
[15] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/brain-disease-cases-public-health-1.5953478
[16] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/researcher-says-brain-disorder-in-n-b-may-be-linked-to-environmental-exposure-1.5363850
[17] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/researcher-says-brain-disorder-in-n-b-may-be-linked-to-environmental-exposure-1.5363850
[18] https://cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/brain-disease-cases-public-health-1.5953478
[19] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/researcher-says-brain-disorder-in-n-b-may-be-linked-to-environmental-exposure-1.5363850
[20] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/nb-mystery-neurological-disease-coulthart-1.5960225
[21] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/nb-mystery-neurological-disease-coulthart-1.5960225
[22] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/nb-mystery-neurological-disease-coulthart-1.5960225
[23] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/nb-mystery-neurological-disease-coulthart-1.5960225
[24] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/researcher-says-brain-disorder-in-n-b-may-be-linked-to-environmental-exposure-1.5363850
[25] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/mystery-neurological-disease-nb-coulthart-1.5959280
[26] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/mystery-neurological-disease-nb-coulthart-1.5959280
[27] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-cases-nb-1.5955035
[28] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/brain-disease-cases-public-health-1.5953478
[29] https://globalnews.ca/news/7715797/new-brunswick-mysterious-brain-disease/
[30] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/brain-disease-cases-public-health-1.5953478
[31] https://globalnews.ca/news/7707318/questions-answers-new-brunswick-top-doctor-mysterious-brain-disease/
[32] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/new-brunswick-green-leader-seeks-answers-from-minister-on-mysterious-brain-disease-1.5358944
[33] https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/researcher-says-brain-disorder-in-n-b-may-be-linked-to-environmental-exposure-1.5363850
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