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State Health Officials Try to Solve Mystery Disease.

May 23, 1990

TEMPLE, Texas (AP) _ State health officials have no explanation for a mystery illness which has stricken at least seven children and possibly many others, prompting hundreds of calls from worried parents.

″We are in for the long haul,″ Dr. Dennis Perrotta, the Texas Department of Health’s director of epidemiology in Austin, said Tuesday. ″This is going to be a tough one.″

The disease causes high fevers, debilitating joint pain, sore throats and rashes. It has been confirmed in seven children between the ages of 3 and 12. Some of the children have been hospitalized for up to a month.

So far, none of the cases has been fatal and victims seem to make a full recovery, said Dr. Jeffrey W. Jundt, who has treated the seven confirmed cases.

State health officials said Tuesday they have gotten 200 to 300 calls from concerned parents and others since word first surfaced in newspapers during the weekend. Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta have been called.

Jundt, an arthritis specialist at Scott & White Memorial Hospital and Clinic in Temple, said the seven confirmed cases appeared in rural east and central Texas.

The ailment has been dubbed ″Palestine Fever,″ after the East Texas town in which the three earliest cases surfaced starting in March. Palestine is about 100 miles southeast of Dallas.

″We traveled to Temple and Palestine and talked to the physicians and visited with the some of the families,″ Perrotta said. ″We have corroborated what Dr. Jundt has told us. We have not been able to come up with the answer. It does look like there are more cases.″

He said the department would probably complete an exposure questionnaire by Wednesday and begin collecting more followup information by the week’s end.

The treatment involves aspirin and antibiotics, Jundt said.

He sees a similarity between this ailment and Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness. ″Lyme disease had been going on for a long time,″ Jundt said. But it wasn’t recognized until a cluster of cases at Lyme, Conn., raised a question, he said.

″There’s a possibility this disease has been around for a while,″ he said.

One patient, 11-year-old Michael Sharp of Copperas Cove, lost 21 pounds in the seven weeks he suffered from the ailment.

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