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WVU expert sees 'steady stream' of black lung cases as CDC releases new findings

Composite photo of Dr Carl Werntz and Dr. Anna Allen
Dr. Carl Werntz and Dr. Anna Allen are available to talk about the CDC's new findings on black lung disease. 
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West Virginia University health experts are uniquely qualified and available to talk about new findings released by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that confirm the largest cluster of complicated black lung cases ever reported.

Carl Werntz, DO, MPH
Associate Professor
Occupational Medicine, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences
WVU School of Public Health

“In addition to my clinic in Morgantown, I also see black lung patients at the Cabin Creek Clinic in Dawes. I have been seeing a steady stream of coal miners from the southern part of West Virginia with both simple black lung and the more advanced form of black lung called progressive massive fibrosis. Black lung can be a very disabling disease. In milder cases miners may notice a little shortness of breath, and more aggressive cases can result in inadequate breathing to perform even simple tasks, making the miners homebound, or even bedbound.

The causes of black lung are complex and their impact varies between individuals. We know that higher amounts of silica dust in the air, difficult airflow and longer exposure to dust increases the risk of developing black lung. These conditions may be contributing to the high prevalence of black lung we are seeing in the miners in western Virginia, southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.”

Carl Werntz audio file (1:15) 

Contact information: 304.293.3693; cwerntz@hsc.wvu.edu

Anna Allen, MD, MPH
Associate Professor
Occupational Medicine, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences
WVU School of Public Health

“Exposure to coal dust can take many years to cause noticeable black lung disease. Progressive massive fibrosis is the classic outcome of coal dust exposure, but lung disease from coal dust exposure includes other breathing conditions as well. Some people will have no symptoms despite an abnormal chest x-ray. Some people have a normal chest x-ray, but have symptoms such as chronic cough, increased sputum production or increasing shortness of breath. Some miners may have been diagnosed with other lung diseases, such as emphysema, chronic obstructive lung disease or chronic bronchitis, which is actually underlying black lung disease. The variability in the disease symptoms and the resemblance to other common lung diseases can make it difficult to truly know the numbers of people with black lung disease.”

Anna Allen audio file (0:56)

Contact information: 304.293.3693; aallen@hsc.wvu.edu

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.

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kwb 02/07/18

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