What is the 'mysterious brain disease' investigated in New Brunswick? Leaked emails prompt 5,000% spike in searches, and more health questions Canadians asked

From New Brunswick's "mystery" brain syndrome to Halsey's health admission, these are the health-related questions Canadians asked this week.

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What are Canadians searching for online this week? (Images via Getty Images)
What are Canadians searching for online this week? (Images via Getty Images)

Canadians and the internet are a match made in digital heaven. Aside from staying up-to-date on the latest news, people are turning to the web to dive deeper into headlines — especially when it's related to their health.

This week, web searches for updates on a "mysterious brain disease" allegedly impacting people in New Brunswick increased by more than 5,000 per cent.

In 2021, the provincial government began investigating a "distinct atypical neurological syndrome" that reportedly caused 48 people to experience a variety of symptoms, including muscle spasms, visual hallucinations, drooling and the feeling as though bugs were crawling on their skin.

Public health in New Brunswick closed the investigation in 2022, stating the patients "should never have been identified as having a neurological syndrome of unknown cause" and that there were "known neurological conditions" that explained their symptoms.

In 2023, The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) sent two epidemiologists to the province after a Moncton neurologist claimed the number of cases had grown to 147, with patients in "the advanced stages of clinical deterioration."

Now, a Canadian microbiologist claimed he was prevented from investigating the illness. Earlier this week, The Guardian reported the leaked emails from federal scientist Michael Coulthart, who alleged the number of cases had grown.

Abstract image of light-emitting nerve cell synapses in the human brain on a circuit board background.
In 2021 New Brunswick Public Health reported that approximately 48 people were showing signs of an unknown neurological disorder. (Image via Getty Images)

"All I will say is that my scientific opinion is that there is something real going on in [New Brunswick] that absolutely cannot be explained by the bias or personal agenda of an individual neurologist," The Guardian reported Coulthart wrote. "A few cases might be best explained by the latter, but there are just too many (now over 200)."

Coulthart allegedly told a PHAC member in October 2023 that he was "essentially cut off" from the investigation. The Guardian reported that Coulthart said in leaked emails that he believed the cause could be an "environmental exposure or a combination of exposures" that was "triggering and/or accelerating a variety of neurodegenerative syndromes."

On June 5, Halsey said via Instagram she was "lucky to be alive" as she announced the upcoming release of her new album. In a follow-up post shared Wednesday, the singer revealed she had been diagnosed in 2022 with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of lupus, along with "a rare T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder."

The news prompted a spike in web traffic by more than 5,000 per cent to learn more about her health.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, SLE is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in various organs or organ systems. Symptoms can include skin rashes, joint pain or swelling, swelling in the hands and feet, fatigue and low fever.

Halsey at Gold House's 3rd Annual Gold Gala held at The Music Center on May 11, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/Variety via Getty Images)
Halsey announced they were diagnosed with lupus and a rare blood disorder. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/Variety via Getty Images)

Approximately 70 per cent of people with lupus have SLE. Although chronic, symptoms may periodically go away. If left untreated, inflammation can cause organ damage, seizures, memory problems, confusion, coronary artery disease and more. Although the exact cause of lupus is unknown, women aged 15 to 44, as well as members of certain ethnic groups, are at higher risk for the disease.

Lymphoproliferative disorders cause uncontrollable production of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Although Halsey didn't specify what kind of lymphoproliferative disorder they have, common symptoms of the group of disorders include anemia, weakness, weight loss, excessive bleeding, bone pain, frequent infections, swollen lymph nodes as well as spleen or liver enlargement.

"Both of which are currently being managed or in remission; and both of which I will likely have for the duration of my life," the 29-year-old wrote. "After a rocky start, I slowly got everything under control with the help of amazing doctors. After two years, I'm feeling better and I'm more grateful than ever to have music to turn to. I can't wait to get back where I belong: With you all."

This week, there was a 2,300 per cent increase in web searches for Men's Health Month. Each June, men are encouraged to take a proactive role in their health and learn more about conditions that disproportionately impact men.

According to McMaster University, men visit their doctors less frequently, which can greatly impact their chances of detecting the early stages of heart disease, diabetes and prostate cancer.

Happy senior father meeting and hugging with his adult son outdoors in park.
Men visit their doctor less frequently than women. (Image via Getty Images)

The Canadian Men's Health Foundation found approximately 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke are preventable through changes to diet, lifestyle and by regularly visiting your doctor who can monitor any changes to your health. As men age, they may experience erectile dysfunction, which can be associated with high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. It can also take a serious toll on a person's mental health. Staying up to date on the symptoms, risk factors and discussing treatment options for illnesses can help men age as healthfully as possible.

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