The MS mystery in Syracuse: Why do we have highest rate of multiple sclerosis nationwide?

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Medical experts along with Sen. Chuck Schumer are pushing to get to the bottom of a new study that says Central New York has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis, or MS, across the country.

MS is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. It affects communication between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage to nerves, and right now there’s no cure.

While doctors at Upstate Medical Center call it a “medical mystery,” there are two factors they believe could play a big role.

At a news conference with Sen. Schumer Monday, doctors say Central New York’s weather and the flu could be contributing factors.

The report by insurance provider Blue Cross Blue Shield says the diagnosis rate of MS in Central New York is 45 per 10,000 insured people or 1 in every 222.

Nationally, that number drops to just 1 in every 416 insured persons.

Dr. Corey McGraw with Upstate neurology says research has already shown MS is more common in people living farther away from the equator. The more north you live, the more likely you are to be diagnosed, he said.

Location is also what’s sparked a deeper interest in a lack of Vitamin D and fighting off flu viruses.

“The fact that Syracuse had a higher rate than even our surrounding communities is puzzling, and we don’t know why that is,” Dr. McGraw said.

MS is currently not a reportable disease which means the concerning numbers here are likely even higher.

Sen. Schumer is asking the CDC to update a database to collect and analyze MS data especially here in the Syracuse region..


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