As medical director of the DeKalb County Board of Health, he's pored over all the data. He's looked into restaurants, tested for a contaminated water supply and studied the occupations and sexual preferences of the infected.
But he still can't explain an alarming spike in hepatitis A cases. The number of new victims has skyrocketed since the early 1990s, and while there are theories, the cause of the outbreak is unknown.
"It's definitely a major health concern now," Brown says. "We can clearly see there's an increase, but we don't have an explanation."
During the first 10 months this year, 131 people contracted the disease in DeKalb. The previous record was 78 new cases set in 1999.
In fact, the entire state is on track to pass all previous records. According to the Georgia Division of Public Health, since 1994, a year when no one reported contracting the disease, between 3,462 and 4,263 people contracted hepatitis A (that range is so wide because some county health boards only report five or fewer new cases, instead of the exact number).
In the same time period, new cases of similarly transmitted diseases like AIDS and hepatitis B and C have been generally on the decline. AIDS cases still far outnumber hepatitis cases (14,449), but new reports decreased from 2,156 in 1993 to 1,099 last year.
There have been 2,726 reports of new hepatitis B cases and about 720 new hepatitis C cases during the same time frame, both of which have far more serious health effects than A. B can be spread through blood, saliva, semen and other fluids. About 25 percent of babies who develop lifelong hepatitis B infections die of liver disease or liver cancer. About 5,000 people die each year from sicknesses hepatitis B causes.
Most who contract hepatitis C get it from sharing needles. About 70 percent of the people with hepatitis C develop chronic liver disease, and less than 3 percent die from it.
While hepatitis A is the less serious of the strains, it's no joke. Hepatitis A is a virus that is passed orally through shellfish and fecal matter. It attacks the liver, causing severe abdominal pain, vomiting and jaundice, which causes skin and eyes to turn yellow.
The symptoms usually last about five weeks and most people recover 100 percent. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 100 people with pre-existing health problems die from hepatitis A in America each year.
The part that really gets to Brown is that those people didn't have to die, and those people who contracted hepatitis A didn't have to suffer. "We don't need to have this problem because it's so preventable. It's a disease for which we have a wonderful vaccine that really works," Brown says.
There's a one-shot vaccine treatment that probably will make sure a person never contracts hepatitis A, and a two-shot treatment that's close to 100 percent effective. Why then are more people than ever contracting it?
There's no answer, just clues. Only six counties, all in the metro area -- Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Hall -- had more than 10 new cases this year. The numbers range from 11 cases in Hall County to 242 in Fulton, suggesting that the cause of the spread is concentrated in urban areas.
And because of the way the disease is spread, certain populations are more likely to get the disease than others. At risk are travelers who visit developing countries and men who have sex with men.
The CDC says the virus "is usually spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth (even though it may look clean) that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A."
For those reasons, the state Division of Public Health is launching a $192,000 outreach program targeting gay men.
"What we've seen is that [hepatitis A outbreaks] peak like every 10 years or so," says Julie Fletcher, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Division of Public Health. "We have some data that suggests it's spreading among men who have sex with men."
Within the next month, state epidemiologists will start driving a mobile vaccination clinic around to gay bars and gyms, charging between $10 and $16, depending on the county, for vaccines. Anyone other than a gay man will have to pay about $50.
Three years ago, Brown tried the same tactic. He targeted the gay community with educational pamphlets and posters, he even deployed the mobile clinics, but the disease still spread.
And contrary to what the state Division of Public Health says, his data doesn't suggest homosexual men are getting the disease more frequently than anybody else.
"You'd suspect because of the sexual distribution of the disease that sexual orientation would be an important variable, but we did not identify that [sexual orientation] accounted for it. We have not been able to come to a single definitive answer."
Not really understanding how Dallas, Houston, and Miami outrank Atlanta, or how LA outranked Portland,…
Doria, based on the findings from the officers report (that it does not match this…
Hey, y'all didn't cover the latest Cobb Braves-related tax story. Cobb Schools, famous for laying…
The solid waste team have been the unsung heroes of the city in recent years…
"It's not the stadium, it's that a black man is making it happen." Well after…