A couple of interesting articles about a possible public health situation in China. Due to the realities of modern travel, though, any public health issue is not just a national issue, but one of international concern. It is an example of a reason being given for an observed cluster of symptoms that is really almost certainly unsupported by conclusive evidence.
But the cause of this cluster is presented as conclusive, and that’s one of the hallmarks of poor reporting about Public Health issues: no doubt or uncertainty is allowed to exist in the published accounts, when in fact there is doubt/uncertainty as to the cause. This is frequently observed in reporting on Public Health issues which have another warning flag: no actual public health authority is part of the reportage, because that Public Health Authority would likely introduce some level of doubt.
June 28, 2006 Edition 1
Shanghai: Stressed-out World Cup fans are contributing to a 20% rise in cases of facial paralysis in Beijing, state media reported.
Doctors said they believed the uptake was due to nervous tension and exhaustion from watching the games, which start at 10pm local time and continue into the early hours of the morning.
The condition, known as prosopoplegia or Bell’s palsy, is caused by nerve trauma and is usually temporary. Most sufferers recover in a matter of weeks. Although China didn’t qualify for the World Cup, soccer is immensely popular and huge audiences have tuned in for the games.
Elsewhere in the country, soccer fans in the commercial hub of Shanghai will be offered free taxi rides home after upcoming World Cup matches to help keep drunken drivers off the roads, the Shanghai Daily newspaper said. – Sapa-AP
First, Bell’s Palsy is a syndrome, not a disease in itself, and can be the result of many conditions. It is the result of damage to the Seventh Cranial Nerve, which travels through an extremely narrow hole in the skull, in order to connect the brain to the face, and damge to the nervous system can present as Bell’s Palsy. There are quite a number of conditions that can cause this, and the causes range from exposure to neurotoxins to certain viral infections.
We will proably never know what caused this cluster, but what is clear is this: there should be better reporting and questioning of the official story of any cluster. This will lead to better accountability of national health authorities to the needs of the populace.