Alibi V.14 No.44 • Nov 3-9, 2005 

Feature

Fun with Diseases

Let's do the Hypochondriac Shuffle, shall we?

Necrotizing Fasciitis—This disease, which involves a type of flesh-eating bacteria, can affect many parts of the body but usually is found in the extremities. It's characterized by, among other things, unexplained fever, inflammation of the infected area and raised lesions filled with purple or blue fluid. Early detection is key because the disease can spread very easily to other parts of the body. Still, it's probably not a good idea to rush to the hospital every time you have an unexplained fever or a rash. But may we suggest instead gouging away any suspicious-looking flesh with a pocketknife or other sharp object?

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever—Named after the region where it was first discovered, RMSF's symptoms include a sudden fever, deep body aches and a rash that can quickly spread to all areas of the body. If left undetected, the disease can be fatal. Tick bites are mostly to blame for spreading the disease to humans.

Hantavirus—Mostly occurring in the western United States, the deadly hantavirus has something of a local flare. Although cases have been confirmed in 30 states, 63 of the 379 cases of hantavirus in the U.S. have occurred in New Mexico. Symptoms of the disease include shortness of breath, fever, body aches, vomiting and abdominal pain. It's contracted by inhaling dust around infected deer mice droppings, urine or saliva. Steer clear of mouse poop, and you'll probably be fine. Maybe. If you're lucky.

Plague—This fun disease was popularized in the Middle Ages. The plague is a bacterial disease spread from rodents to humans by fleas. Although it's treatable with antibiotics if detected early, if you don't get to it quickly enough, it'll kill you. Luckily for us, New Mexico is one of the very few regions of the U.S. where the plague occurs. Symptoms include fever, headaches, chills, extreme tiredness and grotesquely swollen lymph nodes. Rock squirrel fleas are a common source of infection.

West Nile Virus—Severe cases of WNV can cause everything from fever, headache and muscle pain to tremors, convulsions and vision loss. The disease is spread by ticks, which provides further evidence for our theory that the outdoors is little more than a hodge-podge of harsh elements and deadly disease-carrying critters. Don't go outside! TV never hurt anyone!