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Leukemia Cases Climb in Nev. Town

April 27, 2001

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) _ A 13th case of childhood leukemia was confirmed Friday by health officials in a small northern Nevada town.

State epidemiologist Randy Todd said the latest victim of acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL, is a 3-year-old girl born in Fallon while her father was stationed at Fallon Naval Air Station. The family moved out of state last summer.

Air station spokeswoman Anne McMillin said the girl began undergoing chemotherapy this week.

``The family and child are in good spirits but, like the other families dealing with this illness, they have a long road ahead,″ McMillin said.

No one knows what causes ALL, the most common form of childhood leukemia. Suspected triggers include radiation exposure, electromagnetic fields or volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, solvents and fossil fuels.

Normally, the rate of ALL cases would be about three in every 100,000 people. With thirteen cases among about 25,000 people living in Churchill County, which encompasses Fallon, the rate is far above normal.

None of the cases has proved fatal.

Todd said the cases are under investigation by the state Health Division, which is working with federal investigators to find a common link among the children.

Nevada’s congressional delegation has held hearings into the outbreak and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has pressed the Navy not to withhold any information that might help determine the cause of the cases. Navy officials have promised to cooperate.

At a recent hearing, Reid said jet fuel spills or jettisons from Navy planes have been mentioned in discussions of possible causes of the leukemia cases. But Navy representatives said most flights are over unpopulated areas.

Besides military fuels, other possible theories for the cases include viruses; high levels of naturally occurring arsenic in drinking water; and pesticides or fungicides used on area farms.

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