Plans in Works to Study Health Impacts of Methyl Bromide Use

The Health Department has plans in progress to do an epidemiologic investigation on the March incident at St. John’s Sirenusa condominiums, where a pesticide containing methyl bromide used to fumigate a room sickened four members of a vacationing Delaware family, the department said in a press release issued Thursday.

Members of the family suffered seizures while staying in the unit.

Health’s epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis said Thursday, “It’s an assessment to look back as to how many other people were affected.”

As of Monday, family attorney James Maron said that Stephen Esmond and sons Ryan and Sean remain in a stateside hospital in critical condition. The mother, Theresa Devine, is in a rehabilitation facility. A further update was not available Thursday.

The pesticide was sprayed by the St. Thomas-based Terminix on March 18 in a room at Sirenusa. The Esmonds got sick March 20.

This incident prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources to launch an investigation into the matter.

Health has asked for assistance from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct the study.

The study will include contacting residents of the condo complex who stayed in any of the fumigated units either during or after the application of methyl bromide. Condo complex employees who may have worked in any fumigated units, either during or after the application of methyl bromide, will also be contacted.

Additionally the study calls for contact with emergency responders, law enforcement or other people who may have entered treated units.

According to the press release, those groups will be provided with situational awareness of the potential symptoms that may have presented as a result of exposure to methyl bromide.

In questioning those potentially affected, the study will assess and record any reports on health effects consistent with methyl bromide exposure during the time periods during and after the fumigation activities. It will determine if they have received treatment from a physician for symptoms consistent with methyl bromide exposure or a documented health effect from an actual methyl bromide exposure.

If you frequent an area where gases, such as methyl bromide, may have been applied in a residential setting please take caution and report any symptoms to a medical care provider immediately.

Symptoms of poisoning vary widely. Soon after inhalation of large doses, symptoms may include headache, dizziness, nausea, chest and abdominal pain, and a dry throat.

Wikipedia defines epidemiology as the science that studies the patterns, causes and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is a cornerstone of public health and informs policy decisions and evidence-based practice by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive health care.

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