Multiple sclerosis (MS) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are two neurologic diseases which have been the focus of intense public and scientific scrutiny in two Texas communities: MS in El Paso, El Paso County and ALS in San Antonio, Bexar County. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) conducted an MS cluster investigation in El Paso and found a two-fold increase in the disease based on published national MS prevalence estimates. The prevalence doubled when data from the "Pilot Surveillance Project" was used. DSHS also has worked with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, the US Air Force, and the local ALS Association to address community concerns regarding ALS in the communities around Kelly AFB. In both El Paso and San Antonio, the communities were concerned about an apparent excess of the disease and potential links to environmental contaminants.
In 2000, TDSHS (formerly the Texas Department of Health or TDH) received a small grant from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to conduct a pilot MS surveillance project in 19 north Texas counties, centered on Lubbock, Texas, for a two-year period and to re-analyze the El Paso cluster based on the pilot surveillance project. In 2002, TDSHS received a second grant from ATSDR to continue MS surveillance in the Lubbock area and extend MS surveillance to El Paso. The grant also provides funds to begin surveillance for ALS in the Lubbock area and El Paso and Bexar Counties.
- Built on the methods and expertise developed in the pilot project
- Continued MS surveillance in the 19-county Lubbock study area,
- Expanded MS surveillance to El Paso County to capture a larger Hispanic population, and
- Added ALS as a surveillance condition by conducting ALS surveillance in the 19-county study area, El Paso County, and Bexar County.
The goals for this project were to develop prevalence estimates for the three study areas separately and combined for ALS and for the two study areas (El Paso and the 19-county area) each for MS. We also calculated prevalence by race/ethnicity and by age group.