All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for February 2004

Alumna and professor speak at MS luncheon

Tuesday, February 3, 2004
Ashley Engar
The Daily Utah Chronicle

Multiple Sclerosis survivor Jeannie Souvall-Paxton, a U graduate and Delta Gamma alumna, will speak at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Women Against MS Champagne Luncheon on Feb. 28 at the Little America Hotel.

"I'm very excited to speak at the event," Souvall said.

Souvall was diagnosed with MS 32 years ago.

According to the society, multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease that randomly attacks the nervous system.

Severity and specific symptoms of the disease cannot be predicted.

Symptoms may range from tingling and numbness to paralysis and blindness.

"I've been struggling with MS for more than half of my life," said Souvall. "But I realized that MS isn't a death sentence."

Seventy-five percent of MS cases are women, and Utah has one of the highest rates of this disease in the country, according to the society.

Combinations of environmental and genetic factors are believed to be a possible explanation of Utah's large population of people with MS.

"Living farther away from the equator puts people at a larger risk of getting MS," said Robert Fujinami, a U neurology professor.

"MS is more prevalent with Northern Europeans. If you follow the migration, many Utahns are of Northern European descent," Fujinami continued.

Souvall is hopeful for the future since so much research has been accomplished in the past 10 years.

"These are exciting times we live in. You must never give up," Souvall said.

Researchers from different colleges recently discovered that higher intake of vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing MS.

About 200,000 women, including 173 with probable or definite MS, enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study, which regularly surveys female registered nurses about their history of diseases and lifstyles.

Women whose intake of vitamin D was greater than women who did not take vitamin D supplements had a 40 percent lower risk of developing MS, according to the society.

Fujinami and his researchers recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a study to find out the triggers of MS.

His team will be looking at different viruses and bacteria that could serve as triggers for MS.

The professor will also be speaking at the luncheon.

"I'm honored to be invited. It will provide a venue [to inform] people about what we do at the U concerning MS," Fujinami said.

"The Women Against MS Champagne Luncheon is the perfect opportunity for Utah women to come together once a year in the spirit of giving, while enjoying an incredible afternoon with friends," said Maybell McCann, who serves as a National MS Society Utah State Chapter board member.

"Each year, I leave the luncheon knowing that my support really does give hope to Utahns with MS."

Copyright © 2004, The Daily Utah Chronicle