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Mystery respiratory illness killing Navaho youth

Author: 
Windspeaker Staff, ALBUQUERQUE NEW MEXICO
Volume: 
11
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1993

Page R1

Young Navahos are being struck by a deadly respiratory illness that has doctors baffled.

The disease has claimed 11 lives since January, most of them healthy young Navahos. The latest victim of the mysterious flu-like disease was a 13-year-old Navaho girl who collapsed curing a school graduation party May 28.

The girl was rushed to hospital and put on a ventilator, but died the following day.

Most of the 26 cases of the illness have been reported on a reservation straddling the New Mexico-Arizona border. Health officials in New Mexico have tentatively diagnosed the illness as respiratory distress syndrome, which is non-contagious.

Victims suffer muscle aches, fever and headaches that may last 12 hours to several days. The flu-like symptoms rapidly progress to breathing difficulties as lung tissues swell, ultimately suffocating the victims.

Investigators originally suspected an infectious agent or toxic chemical as possible causes of the outbreak, but laboratory tests have been inconclusive.

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