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article imageMS patients seek inquiry into high case number in Ottawa

By Tim Sandle     Sep 7, 2016 in Health
A multiple sclerosis sufferer, Jacques Dutrisac, is seeking to understand why 14 of his former neighbours, of a similar age, have all gone on to develop multiple sclerosis as adults.
The people affected each lived in the suburban area of Elmvale Acres, located in east Ottawa in Canada. Jacques Dutrisac in particular was severely affected by the condition, losing the ability to use his arms and legs.
Multiple sclerosis is a ‘demyelinating disease’, where the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. The disruption to the nervous system leads to several physical, mental and occasionally psychiatric problems. The condition varies in its severity and speed of progression. The main symptoms include fatigue, difficulty walking, vision problems, numbness or tingling in different parts of the body and problems with balance and co-ordination.
Speaking with CBC News Dutrisac explained his concerns: “It's amazing, the coincidence. It's alarming, you know. It makes you really, really wonder what was here at that time.” All 14 affected people lived within a 500 meter radius.
A former resident, in a parallel street, Diane Ladouceur also expressed surprise over the emerging pattern: “It's shocking to discover … [we] were all on the same side of the street, two houses away from each other.”
Aside from living in adjacent streets the other commonality is that all 14 people attended the same school — Charlebois High School (since renamed St. Patrick's High School).
Dutrisac’s view is that there could be a common environmental cause and he has asked doctors to look into this. So far, there is no evidence of a common cause, although medical staff have indicated that the situation and case numbers, within a tiny geographical area, is unusual.
Whether any factor will be traced is uncertain. According to “While cluster studies have been conducted in places including the Faroe Islands; Galion, Ohio; DePue, Illinois; Rochester, New York; El Paso, Texas, no true MS cluster has ever been confirmed and no environmental exposure, such as a hazardous substance or toxin, has to date been linked to MS.”
However, other cases point to possible genetic factors within family groups. One Chicago family, where an entire generation (four sisters and one brother) developed multiple sclerosis was traced to a genetic mutation. This does not explain the issue in Ottawa, however, and Jacques Dutrisac’s concern that the observed clustering is due to some environmental factor.
Over the years environmental and industrial toxins, diet, trace metal exposures and certain climatic elements such as sunlight, have been raised as potential triggers for multiple sclerosis but none have proved conclusive.
More about Multiple sclerosis, Ottawa, Illness, clustering
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