Mystery illness outbreak: Six dead as investigation launched into unknown brain disease

Havana Syndrome sufferer labels condition 'act of war'

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People have reported feeling forgetful and easily confused from the strange illness, which has affected at least 48 people. Governments are now racing to unearth more about the 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.

Investigations into the illness have now been launched.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) first sounded the alarm after an alert about a large batch of unusual neurological cases in the region late last year.

The agency provided specialised 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. 

The patient safety organisation Blood Watch wants to see more action.

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.

“All scientific investigation and research must be free from any political interference.

“We are asking that you issue a clear directive that the investigation must continue solely through a scientific lens.”

It is currently unknown how many people will end up affected and how many will die.

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