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Responding to the Mold Outbreak at VA Bay Pines Center

Recent reports published in the Tampa Bay Times— one in which our Dr. Matt Lewis is referenced in — call attention to a serious health problem at a military housing facility and VA medical center in South Florida… chronic, recurring mold outbreaks that are literally making military personnel and their family members, patients, and treatment providers sick.

The reports focus specifically on mold present in housing at MacDill Air Force Base and a mold outbreak at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center.

Mold made its way to and throughout the subflooring in this MacDill Air Force Base home. [Photo courtesy of Amie Norquist]

However, mold poses a serious health risk throughout Florida, where heat and humidity provide the ideal environment for it to grow. According to the World Health Organization, more than a quarter of U.S. buildings are water-damaged.

One can logically conclude that the percentage is significantly higher in Florida, where we receive an average annual rainfall of 60 inches. Nearly 45 million people across the U.S. live or work in a water-damaged buildings(WDB).

Recognizing the Health Problems Caused by Mold

According to the Florida Department of Health, exposure to mold is often associated with four kinds of health problems:

  • Allergies
  • Irritation
  • Infection
  • Toxicity

Symptoms include the following:

  • Aches and pains
  • Burning or watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings
  • Nasal and sinus irritation or congestion
  • Skin rashes or burning
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

People suffering from mold-related illnesses are often diagnosed as having allergies, sinus infections, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), migraines, or other illnesses.

Testing is rarely performed to identify the underlying cause of the symptoms, and action is rarely recommended to address the root problems — the mold present in the water-damaged building and the toxic inflammatory response that follows in the patient’s body.

As a result, patients continue to suffer and are at an increasing risk of developing more serious medical conditions.

It’s Worse for Some People

Most people are sensitive to mold to some degree and will experience symptoms when exposed to a certain level of molds and mold toxins in the air they breathe and the food they eat.

About a quarter of the population is hypersensitive to moldNearly 25 percent of people have altered functioning in their HLA-DR genes, which makes them more susceptible to the biotoxins found in our waterways and water-damaged buildings.

Initially this genetic predisposition was first discovered in patients with Pfiesteria by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, MD, and later, clinical correlations confirmed this in patients experiencing illness while living or working in water-damaged buildings. (Pfiesteria is microorganisms associated with harmful algal blooms and fish kills.)

These people lack the antibodies necessary for deactivating and removing the toxins from their system. When the toxins reach the brain, they begin to inflame neurons, which impair hormone production and can lead to the development of serious illnesses, such as the following:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic, systemic inflammation
  • Graves’ disease
  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Heart disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s syndrome

Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS)

People who have the HLA-DR genes often develop a condition referred to as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). Their bodies cannot identify certain biotoxins as toxins, so those toxins continue to be recirculated in their bodies, and they remain ill even after they’re no longer exposed to the toxins.

CIRS is another condition discovered by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker (in this case, when he began treating patients who were infected with Pfiesteria with Cholestyramine — a prescription medication that binds to the toxins released by these microorganisms, so the body can purge them).

The treatment was very successful, but Dr. Shoemaker noticed that some of his patients remained ill. After more testing, he discovered that those who remained ill had the HLA-DRBQ gene and that it wasn’t just the Pfisteria toxin that could make people ill.

He found that people living or working in water-damaged buildings could be exposed to a number of toxins due to mold buildup. After additional research and clinical trial with patients, Dr. Shoemaker named this condition Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).

Introducing BioDesign Discovery

At BioDesign Wellness Center, we often see people who have been suffering with CIRS for months or even years only to have their doctors downplay their symptoms or tell them “Your labs are normal.”

Most of these patients didn’t have a chance in the mainstream healthcare system, in which each patient spends about seven minutes with their doctor every few months and perhaps 20 minutes with a specialist who never asks about their home or work environment.

We won’t repeat that mistake. Properly identifying a true case of CIRS-related to water-damaged buildings requires knowing what to ask and then listening. It also takes roughly three hours or more of time with the doctor to establish a diagnosis and begin treatment.

This is because we must rule out everything else that could possibly be causing the symptoms, review previous tests from other providers, and order and review our own tests specifically associated with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome -Water Damaged Buildings (CIRS-WDB).

CIRS-WDB leaves an identifiable fingerprint that can be seen even years after exposure. The BioDesign Discovery process looks for this fingerprint to diagnose CIRS-WDB or rule it out, thus saving you valuable time and resources while making you feel much better much sooner.

For details, check out our previous post “BioDesign Discovery Can Tell If Your Home Is Making You Sick.”

Military Discount

We are currently offering discounts on BioDesign Discovery and treatments to those actively serving in the military. Please contact our Patient Care Coordinator, Lori, to schedule an appointment (813-445-7770).

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Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about the mold outbreak at military facilities in South Florida is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at BioDesign Wellness Center, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.