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Lorain County tops list in federal MS study

http://www.morningjournal.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=10876957&BRD=1699&PAG=461&dept_id=46371&rfi=6

Jan 28, 2004
Mike Sakal
The Morning Journal

As a federal study of multiple sclerosis cases nears its sixth year, it shows that Lorain County has the most confirmed cases per 100,000 people when compared to cities in Texas and Missouri, according to Lorain County Health Commissioner Kenneth Pearce.

The case prevalence study conducted by the Atlanta-based Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, identified MS cases and revealed that Lorain County has 164 MS cases per 100,000 people, Pearce said.

Sugar Creek and Independence, Mo., have 90 MS cases per 100,000, and Lubbock, Texas, has 64 cases per 100,000 people, according to the ATSDR study, Pearce said.

The number of MS cases in Lorain County was 422 as of June 2003, according to the study.

Lorain County, Sugar Creek, Independence and Lubbock were studied because of a perceived high number of MS cases, Pearce said.

In the area of Wellington near the former Sterling Foundry there were about 25 MS cases reportedly discovered by Wellington residents in 2001, which was alarming, Pearce said.

The study began in 1998, and there is no timeline for it to be completed, said Robert Indian, head of community health assessments for the Ohio Department of Health, which has helped with the study in Lorain County since 2001. Lorain County was researched between 2001 and 2003, Pearce said.

A final report from the prevalence study will be followed by a case-control study that will provide more detail on MS cases, Indian said.

The case control study will go into more detail and compare similarities and differences in the MS cases, such as through a geographical area, climate, genetics and whether those areas are rural or industrial.

The case-control study is in the planning stages and will be completed this year, Indian said.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system. It may last for years and eventually cause serious disabilities, including paralysis of the legs and partial loss of vision.

MS afflicts more women than men, and most victims begin to have symptoms of MS when they are between 20 and 45 years old, according to past studies conducted by health agencies.

Its cause is unknown, and there is no cure for it.

''MS is not a reportable disease in every state like cancer is in Ohio,'' Indian said yesterday. ''The number of MS cases varies across different areas of the country. ''It just depends on how good you are at beating the bushes to find cases. There still might be a few cases tucked away in nursing homes that we haven't been able to get to yet.''

Lorain County provided about $35,000 for the study, and the state received about $60,000 to help conduct the study, Indian said.

''The study was done to set up a standard protocol to determine how to do a prevalence rate and know what that rate would be,'' Pearce said yesterday. ''The study was done by discussions with neurologists, contacting hospitals, case definition and actual diagnosis.''

''Actual cases we identified as MS cases had to be diagnosed by a doctor and be backed with an MRI,'' Pearce said.

The prevalence study revealed that there were more MS cases in the northern United States, but the case rate in Lorain County was not alarmingly high, Indian said.

''The study mimics the pattern of the Mayo Clinic's MS study in Rochester, Minnesota,'' Pearce said. ''The farther you go north, the more MS cases there are. In Minnesota, researchers discovered 180 MS cases per 100,000 people.''

However, results from Missouri showed ''no statistically significant increase in the number of residents with MS between Sugar Creek and Independence, and the Lorain County and Lubbock studies aren't quite complete,'' said Paula Stephens, a spokewoman with the ATSDR.

''People had raised concerns over a perceived increase in MS cases,'' Stephens said. ''There is a former petroleum refinery in Sugar Creek, and there were a number of MS cases in that area but not enough that it was alarming.''

''We hope to identify risk factors connected to MS,'' Pearce said. ''The case control study will more or less be a follow-up study to the prevalence study. People will be interviewed, fill out questionnaires and give blood samples as part of that study.

''We seriously hope that Lorain County can play a serious role in helping determine a cause or factors surrounding MS,'' Pearce said.
 

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