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Q fever hits rural Churchill

FALLON — A rare bacterial disease known as Q fever is turning up in a rural Northern Nevada county that also is home to a childhood leukemia cluster, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Nevada had eight reported cases of Q fever in 2007, six of them in Churchill County, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported. In 2006, the state had seven reported cases, all of them in Churchill County.

Since 1997, 17 children with ties to the county seat of Fallon have been diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Three have died. Health officials say about one leukemia case in five years would be expected.

Tammy Sneddon of Fallon said both her 41-year-old husband, Chris, and a 65-year-old man who lived next door had been diagnosed with Q fever before dying of aneurysms last year.

She criticized state health officials, saying the cases should be probed and the public needs to be aware of the illness.

Dr. Ihsan Azzam, Nevada state epidemiologist, said every case of Q fever in Nevada has been investigated and the number of the county’s cases can be explained by doctors in the area being more inclined to test for the disease.

He said the cases are nothing to be alarmed about and it’s a coincidence that the two next-door neighbors died within months of each other in the town 60 miles east of Reno.

“Is there a Q fever problem in Churchill County? To look at the numbers and say ‘yes’ would be to significantly blow this out of proportion,” Azzam said.

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