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Archive for Thursday, June 3, 1993

LOCAL DOCTOR ON LOOKOUT FOR MALADY

June 3, 1993

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A doctor treating an Effingham man for a respiratory illness has ruled out any connection between his patient's disease and a mysterious ailment that has killed 13 people, mostly Native Americans, in Arizona and New Mexico.

Aaron Gracey, 19, was suffering from a recognizable form of pneumonia, said Dr. Paul Jost, infectious disease specialist at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Gracey was in serious condition at the hospital Wednesday evening. He was one of two people whose illnesses Kansas health officials had feared might be related to those in the southwestern states.

The other case, a 30-year-old northeast Kansas woman who died in January, was still being investigated, said Greg Crawford, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Crawford would not confirm Gracey's diagnosis Wednesday night.

``We're in the process of gathering information on the two reports we have,'' he said. ``We will be getting that information together and forwarding it back to (New Mexico authorities).''

He would not identify the woman but said she was not from Effingham.

Dr. Steven Stevenson, a physician with the Indian Health Center in Lawrence, said several patients concerned about the illness in New Mexico had come into the center, but he said there are no indications that anyone in Lawrence is afflicted with the illness.

"We're trying to alleviate patient's fears," Stevenson said. "It's a little too early for us to panic. There's not a whole lot that (health officials) really know about the illness. Basically we're getting our information from the news the same as everyone else.

"Obviously we're concerned, but there's not a lot to do until they find out more," Stevenson said.

Hannes Combest, executive educational assistant to the Haskell Indian Junior College president, said the college administration has seen no reason to panic.

"We are concerned because of people we know on the reservation," Combest said. "But there have been no indications that the illness will occur here."

The disease, marked by flu-like symptoms, has killed eight people in New Mexico and five in Arizona. New Mexico officials notified Kansas officials of the two possible cases.

The disease has killed mostly young Navajos, and the cases date to April. The tribe has a 17-million acre reservation covering parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Officials in New Mexico have said the primary symptoms of the disease are fever and muscle aches, particularly in the legs and lower back. Symptoms do not include others associated with the flu, such as runny nose, sore throat or rash.

Neither Gracey nor the unidentified woman are Native Americans, "as far as we can tell," Crawford said.

Crawford said the department is advising Kansans against handling illnesses in an extraordinary manner. He said that if sickness normally requires the attention of a family physician, such a visit still is the proper step to take.

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