A mystery brain illness that is baffling Canadian doctors is increasingly affecting young people, a doctor has claimed.
People who care for patients with the progressively worsening disease are also bizarrely becoming sick, as though it is catching.
The disease has been instilling confusion and fear for two years with health officials in the affected area, New Brunswick, no closer to discovering the cause.
Symptoms listed by health chiefs include memory problems, muscle spasms, balance issues, difficulty walking or falls, hallucinations, unexplained weight loss, and pain in the limbs.
The illness is similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, (CJD), a rare and fatal brain disease, one form of which is known as “Mad Cow Disease”.
A whistleblower has said the condition is alarming doctors, two years after it was first discovered in the spring of 2019.
Speaking to the Guardian, the employee with Vitalité Health Network, one of the province’s two health authorities, said suspected cases are growing in young people.
Young people are not typically at risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and those affected appeared previously healthy.
The source said: “I’m truly concerned about these cases because they seem to evolve so fast. I’m worried for them and we owe them some kind of explanation.”
Case reports described by the paper include a young mother who lost more than 50 pounds, developed insomnia and hallucinations.
A woman in her 30s lost the ability to speak, drools excessively and is now fed through a tube.
Her caregiver, a nursing student in her 20s, recently started showing symptoms of the disease.
In another mind-boggling case, a woman suddenly began losing muscle and experiencing dementia and hallucinations after caring for her husband, a suspected patient with balance and speech difficulties.
Some 48 cases have been confirmed by the New Brunswick Public Health (NBPH) – a figure that hasn’t changed in two years.
But there are suspected to be dozens more, potentially 150, sources told the paper.
There have been eight reported deaths, but officials say they cannot guarantee the mystery brain disease was to blame for the fatalities.
For example, a pathologist controversy claimed Laurie Beatty instead died of Alzheimer’s – a conclusion that “gobsmacked” his family.
This month, a paper from a New Brunswick committee tasked with investigating the disease is expected to say the 48 cases were the result of misdiagnoses by brain doctors.
The clinical review committee is chaired by directors of New Brunswick’s two health authorities — Vitalité Health Network and Horizon Health Network.
The whistleblower at Vitalité continued: “This is not a New Brunswick disease. We’re probably the area that is raising the flag because we’re mostly rural and in an area where people might have more exposure to environmental factors.”
Experts said the disease could be linked to environmental triggers, with beta-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) particularly of interest.
BMAA is a toxin centered in marine and freshwater environments and has been linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
A report published in October said that a survey of 34 people with the disease had found “no specific behaviors, or food or environmental exposure” causing it.
The mystery disease strikes people of both genders and all ages, with the average age of patients being 59, but as young as 18.
Alier Marrero, a neurologist in New Brunswick who has treated most of the patients, has previously said he had detected “unusually young patients” who had shown symptoms as early as 2013.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission.