CLYDE, Ohio - The Sandusky County health department has begun an investigation into reports of multiple cases of childhood cancer in the Clyde area, county and state officials said yesterday.
Kathy Schaeffer, the county department's director of nursing, said she has received nine reports of children who live in or around Clyde who have cancer from the neck up.
"What we're looking at is, is that an abnormal number, and is there something that's causing it," she said.
The reports came from a nurse in the Clyde-Green Springs Local School District, a Fremont physician, and a nurse for the county department.
Ms. Schaeffer said the county is contacting the affected families and will compile information for review by the Ohio Department of Health.
"We at least felt we had to address it," Ms. Schaeffer said. "We can at least ask for a study, and it's up to the powers that be at the Ohio Department of Health to decide if it's worth going forward."
She said the reports come from "not one street or one section" of town. "We know it's kind of spread around Clyde."
Robert Indian, chief of chronic disease and behavioral epidemiology for the state health department, said his office will analyze the data it gets from the county to determine if there's any discernible trend or common thread that bears further study. The state also wants to find out if the Clyde area has a higher-than-normal rate of childhood cancer.
"The bottom line is, we know it happens, and the question becomes, how many are we seeing and how many might we expect to see," Mr. Indian said.
About 56,000 new cases of cancer are reported in Ohio each year.
Mr. Indian cautioned that even if investigators find that a cancer cluster exists in the Clyde area, the chances of identifying a single cause are slim.
"It's very difficult, because cancer's just one of those diseases that has multiple causes, and it's a complex interaction of factors," he said. "It's an absolutely horrible thing for the child and for their parents, but we want to ante up here and do our best ... and profile these cancer cases for the community."
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