Friday, June 25, 1999
By KAREN HENDERSON
PLAIN DEALER REPORTER
WELLINGTON - The Lorain County health department, studying a high concentration of multiple sclerosis in Wellington, has found 33 cases of the disease.
Health Commissioner Kenneth Pearce said the next step in identifying whether a disease cluster exists in this village of 4,200 is to obtain medical release forms so that health officials can study patients' medical records.
Pearce also said that he has asked for a meeting to discuss the results and to seek help from Dr. Robert Indian, head of Chronic and Environmental Disease Surveillance at the Ohio Department of Health. Pearce assigned a nurse to the MS study after The Plain Dealer reported March 14 that Wellington had at least 22 cases of the disease, more than five times the national average for a village its size.
Nationally, MS shows up in about one in 1,000 people, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Clusters of the disease are rare. Most of the cases in Wellington are in an area around Prospect St., and many of the residents suspect that their illness may be caused by exposure to chemicals and heavy metals from nearby industry.
MS is an incurable and debilitating illness of the central nervous system that can lead to vision loss, paralysis, slurred speech, confusion and depression. The cause is unknown.
"I'm encouraged that they have completed the study and they are passing it on to the state," said Sally Giar, the first resident to be interviewed for the study. "Because there are so many of us, I hope the state will look at it in depth." Giar was diagnosed with MS in 1983. Joyce Hansel, a nurse who was forced to retire because of her MS, was pleased that the study had confirmed what Wellington residents have known for years.
"I'm glad they're finally making some progress," Hansel said. When Health
Department nurse Janine Trottier began the study two months ago, she said
one goal is determining whether there is a common link or source of exposure.
Trottier, a 1987 Ursuline College graduate who specializes in communicable
diseases, said finding a common link would be difficult and perhaps impossible.
But she was excited by the
Trottier developed a questionnaire asking where the multiple sclerosis
patients live, when they were diagnosed, their symptoms and who
diagnosed the disease.
The initial interviews were conducted in person and by telephone, Trottier