At least 48 people aged between 18 and 85, almost equally men and women, have been suffering from an inexplicable illness that has caused their health to swiftly deteriorate. Visual and auditory hallucinations, memory loss, difficulty walking and balance issues are among the symptoms of the mysterious condition, which is reported to have killed six patients thus far.
This week, the government of the mainly affected New Brunswick province, located on the Atlantic coast, stepped up its efforts to deal with the outbreak, which had, until recently, been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. An expert committee has been set up to expedite the investigation into what is being referred to as the New Brunswick Cluster of Neurological Syndrome of Unknown Cause.
“The discovery of a potentially new and unknown syndrome is scary,” New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told a news conference on Thursday, adding that locals have been “concerned and confused” about the new disease.
While people in the province have been suffering from alarming symptoms that appear to stem from the same unknown brain-damaging illness for the past few years, no certain cause has yet been identified. Health officials have been looking into potential environmental and animal exposure, but uncertainty prevails.
“At this point in time, we don’t know. Everything is on the table. We’re going to look at every possibility, and, hopefully, we’ll … develop a good understanding,” one of the committee co-chairs, Dr. Edouard Hendriks said. The other, Dr. Natalie Banville, admitted no advice can be given to people as to how – or whether – they can protect themselves from the disease, as the experts haven’t determined its derivation.