With the presence of a rare blood cancer cluster in the region, a group of citizens in Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties is working to keep the disease on the public radar.

The latest means to inform residents about polycythemia vera is the availability of a new health outreach display board on the disease.

The Tri-County Polycythemia Vera Community Action Committee (CAC) unveiled the new display board Thursday evening prior to its meeting in the alumni room at St. Jerome Regional School, Tamaqua.

Polycythemia vera (PV) is a disorder in which too many red blood cells are produced. The blood cancer had been found to be in elevated levels in and around Tamaqua, McAdoo and Hazleton, particularly in the Still Creek area.

Research had found that a genetic mutation called JAK2 was found to occur in most PV patients. This mutation is not inherited and causes bone marrow cells to constantly make red blood cells,even when the body signals them to stop.

Polycythemia vera is a treatable form of cancer. The purpose of the display is to provide accurate and easy to understand information about PV in the areas.

The display board was developed by the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at the request of the Community Action Committee, according to CAC member and spokesman Joe Murphy, Hometown,

"Laurie Werner of ATSDR made this happen," said Murphy. "The pace of education had to catch up with the rate of discovery, and this is just one of several kinds of outreach we are doing, not only for PV patients but for doctors."

"Commitment and education is what we are looking at here," said Tamaqua Mayor Christian Morrison, a committee member. "CAC stepped up and asked for some type of outreach program."

Murphy said CAC hopes to display the polycythemia vera board at different locations, such as pharmacies, libraries and municipal buildings. It is currently being displayed at Tamaqua Borough Hall.

ATSDR, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Geisinger, and researchers from Drexel University, the University of Pittsburgh and Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York and the CAC are collaborating on a range of health studies and outreach programs in the area.

These groups are providing a series of factsheets for patients and their families, as well as the medical community, to foster greater awareness and effective responses to PV and other myeloproliferative diseases (MPD).

The CAC has also initiated a support group for MPD patients and their families to assist them in getting information and offering mutual encouragement.

The next step for CAC is a public meeting, which will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Tamaqua Area School District auditorium.

The meeting will provide an opportunity for area residents to meet with the research teams that will soon be conducting studies to learn more about PV, its incidence in the region and its possible causes.