“It is hard not to look at a news APP, aggregator site, paper or TV channel and not to be confronted with the horrors of the Syrian refugee crisis at an individual, family, national and supranational level. However, what is more distressing is the UK government’s response to crisis. I am therefore pleased to read this morning that David Cameron is bowing to pressure and appears to be changing his position on the crisis. It never ceases to amaze me how one picture can change the minds and attitudes of millions; I am certain photojournalism is the nudge factor behind Cameron’s change of mind and hopefully heart.”
“The crisis has prompted me to engage in a simple thought exercise that you may want to join me in. If we take a step back and think about what it must be like to be a person with MS living in Syria right now. How are they coping? I can only imagine what it must be like to be wheelchair-dependent in a bomb-ravaged city. What do you do if you need to intermittently self-catheterise yourself and you have run out of catheters? What do you do if you fall and fracture a hip? If you have walking difficulties and reduced mobility and your family needs to flee the country on foot; do you stay behind or go with them? If you have frequent episodes of incontinence, but no access to running water. Yes, there are people in Syria who have MS. Although the prevalence of MS is lower in the middle east, most countries surveyed in the region are seeing an increasing incidence of the disease, particularly amongst women. With the current crisis I wonder how someone is investigated who presents with their first clinical attack suggestive of a clinically isolated syndrome? Access to drugs is becoming increasingly problematic for people with chronic diseases in Syria; I am sure supply chains for DMTs and other symptomatic drugs have been severely disrupted and some parts of the country non-existent.”
“As I reflect on these issues, and others, I simply cannot understand David Cameron’s and our government’s position on the Syrian refugee crisis. Britain, in particular Great Britain, has always been an outwardly looking country. In the past it has taken waves of migrant populations, who have always contributed to the diversity and prosperity of the country. For example, the French Huguenots who transformed Spitalfields and the London rag trade, the Eastern European jewish migrants, the Irish, the Africans, the Asians, the Americans, the Antipodeans, and many other waves of Europeans. The list is a long and illustrious one and an intrinsic part of the history of this country. Testament to this, is the observation that there are over 300 different languages spoken in London. I personally see no reason why Britain should change its long tradition of accepting migrants now; it goes against the heart of the nation and what made, and makes, this country great.”
“If you have MS and are from Syria, or are still living in Syria, please share your story with us. Let us know how you are coping with your disease and if there is anything we can do to help. We are thinking about you.”
Benamer et al. Frequency and clinical patterns of multiple sclerosis in Arab countries: a systematic review. J Neurol Sci. 2009 Mar 15;278(1-2).
The susceptibility of various populations to multiple sclerosis (MS) and the clinical patterns of the disease are thought to be different. Nineteen articles related to incidence, prevalence and clinical patterns of MS in Arab populations were identified by keyword searching of Medline and Embase, and review of references in all relevant papers. Data were only available for the Kuwaiti, Jordanian, Libyan, Saudi, Iraqi, Palestinian (including Arabs living in Israel), and Omani populations. The publications ranged from 1975 to 2007. In Israel the incidence of MS was 0.7 per 100,000 per year in Arabs born and living in Greater Jerusalem. In Kuwait, the incidence of MS was 2.08 per 100,000. Prevalence varied from 4 to 42 per 100,000 population. The clinical pattern of MS was generally similar to that in western countries. However, one study from Oman found a high rate of optic-spinal disease (affecting one third of patients) and a low rate of oligoclonal bands (OGBs) (only one third of patients); this pattern resembles that of MS described in Asian countries. In conclusion, the prevalence of MS among Arabs has a wide reported range. The clinical pattern is generally similar to “Western type” MS but apparent differences in optic-spinal disease and OGBs positivity need further evaluation. There is significant opportunity for further evaluation of MS in Arabs, especially in unstudied areas, including the populous countries of Egypt, Algeria, Syria, and Morocco. Studies of Arab-Americans and Arab immigrants in Europe could help in defining the effect of immigration on MS. Such studies are likely to enhance our knowledge of the environmental, genetic and clinical variation of MS in Arabs.