Infection that is more common in Europe is spreading among U.S. residents


Travel restrictions imposed in the wake of an outbreak of a neurodegenerative disease known as “the white girl’s illness” in Oregon were relaxed on Friday following the death of the final victim in the outbreak, officials said.

The sweeping restrictions, imposed after the deaths of a total of 27 residents of a group home for the mentally disabled in Woodburn, had previously forced any U.S. resident to obtain the services of a state psychiatric institution before leaving the country, except in special circumstances.

After the outbreak was first made public in June, Oregon state officials ordered the shutdown of 20 group homes for mentally disabled individuals, and the relocation of many patients to other facilities. The state was also required to improve its programs for HIV-positive patients and people with other disabilities, and to establish outreach programs for people in the community who needed help.

Cases of the Omicron variant have also been reported in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, and West Virginia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is an acute disorder that, although rare, can lead to involuntary muscle weakness, memory loss, dementia, and paralysis. Cases of the disorder also occur in Europe, Asia, the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand.

Oregon has reported three cases of the disorder so far this year, with the latest death on Thursday. While that raises the total number of cases this year to 17, “these deaths have occurred with all the symptoms of cerebral edema,” James M. Montgomery, a psychiatry professor at University of Oregon, wrote in a commentary published in the medical journal JAMA.

In reaction to the latest death, a crowd of roughly 100 people gathered on the grounds of Portland Hospital to protest the continued closure of the group homes.

The Oregonian reported:

The protest was organized by Karen Leglise, 69, a former resident of Brightwood Village who arrived at the event Monday afternoon with a photograph of her husband who died of the illness three years ago.

“My husband loved that place,” Leglise said as she held a photograph of him in his Brightwood Village wheelchair. “He moved back to his home town. But it’s not fair to patients there. They’re treated like livestock.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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