Mystery Illness - Or
Anxiety - On Vancouver Bus

By Tiffany Crawford
Canadian Press
VANCOUVER (CP) -- Officials have an idea of what may have caused a Vancouver bus driver and two paramedics treating him to get violently ill, a city police spokesman said Friday.
However, Dep. Chief Doug LePard wouldn't say what they think it might be until testing is complete.
"We have some preliminary results and so, yes, we have an idea what it might be but the nature of this sort of scientific testing is that you get lots of false positives," LePard said.
With 60 staff from various agencies and four detectives working to test the air and surfaces inside the bus, LePard said more information would likely be released to the public Saturday.
Brown pellets found on the bus turned out to be a harmless mix of thyme, mud and tiny pine cones.
Police still maintain there is no threat to the public.
The incident began Tuesday when a transit bus driver became ill shortly after a man who gave the driver a cryptic warning left the bus.
One witness who was sitting at the front of the bus travelling from suburban Richmond to Vancouver said the man told the bus driver that his day was about to take a turn.
Joyce Horton, 62, said she thought the man was just being rude.
However, 10 kilometres away from where the man stepped off the bus, the driver began vomiting violently, other passengers felt nauseous, and the paramedics attending to the driver also became sick.
Police released a sketch of the man Friday. He was described as in his early twenties, with a medium build, short dark hair, a pencil thin moustache and a tight gold chain around his neck.
"We are not describing this person as a suspect," LePard said. "He may be a witness that will assist our investigation. It is a criminal investigation and it is very important that we speak to this person."
LePard also confirmed that all the people have recovered.
He said the concern now is finding out what exactly it was that caused the illness.
"We have the people who are the absolute experts in this and we're in consultation with the best experts that are available to us in ensuring all the right testing is done in the right order," LePard said.
A University of British Columbia epidemiologist however isn't sold on the idea some type of noxious substance may have been left on the bus.
Dr. Richard Mathias calls it mass hysteria.
"An unknown substance which turns out to be harmless, somebody getting sick, nausea, vomiting, all of those kinds of things are associated with this," he said.
Mathias said he believes the illnesses were a textbook case of anxiety.
"Somebody starts to get sick and then it rapidly spreads to other people," he said "(It's) quite a classic presentation for this sort of thing."
LePard brushed off that idea, saying that while he was aware of that phenomenon he didn't think it was the case here.
"Our ambulance staff deal with sick people all day, every day and several of them became ill with similar symptoms very quickly after dealing with the bus driver who was affected, so that seems to be a theory that doesn't hold much water," he said.
© The Canadian Press 2004
From Patricia Doyle, PhD
Many chemical weapons, such as the new choice of terrorists, Osmium Tetroxide, evaporate at room temperature. The fact that chemical weapons evaporate quickly, many within minutes, makes identifying a particular agent after use difficult.
Chemical weapons use the toxic properties of chemical substances rather than their explosive properties to produce physical or physiological effects on an enemy. There are many different types of chemical weapons such as the newer Russian developed agents, like Substance A232, known as binary weapons. Binary chemical weapons mix two, separate, relatively non-toxic chemicals to create a toxic chemical agent.
It does seem aparant that some sort of a chemical weapon, in a nonlethal dose, had been used in this case. Due to the fact that the chemical agent evaporated immediately, we will probably never find out which agent was used. It is also doubtful that blood tests on the victims will pick up the agent.
As for anxiety? "A textbook case of anxiety?" No way!
Patricia Doyle For more information
Information on chemical weapons can be found at:
Chemical Warfare Agents
A chemical agent is a substance which is intended for use in military operations to kill, seriously injure or incapacitate people because of its physiological effects. Excluded from this definition are riot control agents, herbicides, smoke and flame.
Nerve Agents
GA (Tabun)
GB (Sarin)
GD (Soman)
VX (methylphosphonothioic acid)
Blister Agents
HD - sulphur mustard (Yperite)
HN - nitrogen mustard
L - Lewisite
CX - phosgene oximine
Choking Agents
CG phosgene
DP diphosgene
Cl chlorine
PS chloropicrin
Mystery Illness - Or
Anxiety - On Vancouver Bus
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at:
Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
Go with God and in Good Health



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