Toronto — A bold new awareness campaign led by the Multiple Sclerosis Society
of Canada is asking Canadians whether they will flee or fight when presented with the fact that Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world – two times a greater risk than France, 13 times a greater risk than Argentina and 27 times a greater risk than Pakistan. Even some who have recently moved to Canada have been diagnosed with the disease.
MS, a disease of the central nervous system, can cause symptoms such as loss of balance, impaired speech, extreme fatigue, vision impairment, changes in mood and cognition and impaired mobility. As a result, individuals who live with MS face an uncertain future – potential for job instability, income insecurity, inability to fulfill daily family responsibilities and isolation due to mobility impairment.
“My MS started so aggressively that I have never been able to return to my career as a school principal,” says Michelle Hewitt, who lives with MS. “Not only that, but the significant decline in my mobility has meant that my husband has also had to give up his career to become my full-time caregiver.” Women are three times more likely to develop MS than men.
Why does Canada have the highest rate of MS in the world? While the answers behind Canada’s high incidence rate are still to be uncovered, the country may have the ‘perfect storm’ for MS. A combination of genetics, environment and modifiable risk factors, such as Vitamin D status, obesity, smoking and viruses, are all at play. The MS Society of Canada continues to invest in research that will provide answers, but information could not come fast enough for the 100,000 Canadians living with MS and their loved ones.
“With Canada having the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world, it’s clear that MS is Canada’s disease. This means that MS is also our disease to fight as a nation,” says Yves Savoie, president and CEO, MS Society of Canada. “Canadians have a strong history of not backing down from a challenge – whether its striving hard to take top honours at the Olympics, offering aid to others in need or showing the world that we can live together in diversity rather than adversity. We hope that the fight to end MS becomes a part of this history,” Savoie continues.
Despite the devastating impact of MS, Canada has one of the most robust research enterprises focused on the disease. In 2014 alone, the MS Society of Canada funded 49 MS-focused researchers, 63 MS research trainees and 3 multi-centre, multi-million dollar collaborative MS research grants. “The research community in Canada is extraordinary in both its determination and dynamism and is poised to make major breakthroughs to end MS,” says Dr. Alan Thompson, Dean, University College London, Faculty of Brain Sciences and chair, Medical and Scientific Advisory Board of MS International Federation. This research community is ready to collaborate across the country and around the world to find new and more advanced treatments for all forms of MS.
About multiple sclerosis and the MS Society of Canada
Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world. MS is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system comprising the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. It is one of the most common neurological diseases affecting young adults in Canada. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, and the unpredictable effects of MS last for the rest of their lives. The MS Society provides services to people with MS and their families and funds research to find the cause and cure for this disease. Please visit mssociety.ca or call 1-800-268-7582 to make a donation or for more information.