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Four Corners Disease | definition of Four Corners Disease by Medical dictionary
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1993 Four Corners hantavirus outbreak
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hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
Forgot your details? It is deeply rooted in the spiritual health, culture and language of the people. Traditional knowledge is both a way of life and an authority system, setting out the rules governing the use of resources — respect and an obligation to share. It is dynamic, cumulative and stable. It is truth. This truth becomes very evident through the following case study. In , a series of sudden, unexplained deaths in New Mexico frightened the entire Navajo community. Navajo people, mostly those who were healthy and in their young adulthood, were coming down with a disease that revealed itself as flu-like symptoms merely hours before lungs began to fill with fluid.
State law in New Mexico requires all unexplained deaths to be reported to a central registry, and all suspicious deaths are autopsied at the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque. All autopsies are performed in its labs. By this point, the labs in Albuquerque were becoming alarmed.
All the victims of this strange and deadly disease were coming from the Navajo Nation living in the Four Corners region, a 25, square mile reservation northwest of the city of Gallup. The forensic pathologist at the autopsy labs notice that one commonality between the victims was that their lungs weighed more than twice what they should have, and were not filled with pus, as would indicate pneumonia, but rather with the clear, yellowish fluid that makes up the plasma portion of blood.
She then ordered tests for every known infection that might have caused such a condition. All came back negative. Troubled for weeks by this mystery disease, she called the state health department in Santa Fe to report a possible outbreak in New Mexico of an unknown and deadly respiratory illness.
By the seventh Navajo death, the list of possible viruses at work was narrowing. Meanwhile, state and Navajo health officials were investigating, interviewing families, friends and doctors who had known the decedents. Their jobs were made more challenging once the local and then national media jumped on the story. In some cases this attention went directly against the Navajo tradition of a four-day mourning period.
As the cases kept coming in, one medical technician who had assisted in one of the autopsies came down with a sudden unexplained fever and muscle aches.
Hantavirus: Four Corners, United States
Though he recovered from the mysterious illness, the entire medical community was spooked. Faced with an outbreak that seemed to be spreading, and no closer to an answer, a task force was arranged, a brainstorm session between CDC officials, infectious-disease and toxicology experts and doctors who had treated local victims.
First they reviewed their clinical findings of the victims: high counts of white blood cells, low counts of platelets blood clotting agents , fever, cough, and trouble breathing. The task force considered where patients lived, where they might have acquired the disease, any connections that they may have had to each other. Because of the fluid-filled lungs in all cases, possible causes of lung disease were discussed, in two major categories; toxins and infectious agents.
Yet their lists, which included from WWI-era poison gas and heavy metals in the ground, to Chlamydia and Q-fever, a disease that spreads through cattle, sheep, and goat populations. The Special Pathogens Branch deals with the most dangerous viruses known to man, including the Dengue, Marburg, and Ebola strands of hemorrhagic fever. After weeks of dangerous genetic research, they came to know their suspect. It appeared to be a previously unknown species of Hantavirus. It causes HPS, or Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and is transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings, or saliva, which humans can then breathe in particles of.
This new species differed however, in that it caused flooding of the lungs, instead of the expected bleeding in the kidneys. As well, this species seemed to target seemingly healthy adults, rather than the young, old, or weak. When there are many pinion nuts, along come many mice.
The Navajo are not fond of mice. If you wake up at night and one is on your bed, you must get up, wash, burn your pajamas, and burn the bed clothes.
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This is ancient belief and practice. With this tidbit of traditional knowledge, the researchers began collecting deer mice. While the mice themselves were healthy, the team soon figured out that the virus was being excreted in the urine and feces of the mice.