I am swamped with mysterious disease cases. Any time a cluster of people with an unidentifiable disease shows up in an area hospital, I get the call. It's my job to follow up, identify the disease, and marshal resources to prevent a possible epidemic. I mobilize my staff and send them out to interview the patients, their families, and their co-workers; check out the area where the disease first appeared; and so on. I get copies of the lab tests and find out what treatments have been tried and whether they worked. This information is plugged into the national database, which can sort through the information and find parallel cases that might tell me what the disease is, where it's coming from, why it's happening, and what we can do about it. If I work fast enough, we can nip a problem in the bud, before it becomes an epidemic. Here are three strange cases. Can you sort through the information and figure out what is going on?
Bill and I, we've had a lot of years together. But that's what a brother's for, I guess, to share the years, long and short, good and bad. We had rain all last winter, a perfect spring, and one of our best wheat crops yet. Yeah, a good, long year. Once the harvesting was done, Bill was so happy, he got it into his head that the barn needed a whole new roof. He was in a working mood I guess, and that roof was going bad. We went at it hard. Bill never stopped. He was working four, five hours past when I'd go home to the wife and kids. When we got done, Bill went to bed with chills and a fever. Overwork, I figured. Then he had trouble breathing, so we took him right to the hospital. Two days later, he was dead. And he was only 46 years old.
I love my home. I see deer and pheasant out the window. . . . It makes me feel like I live in the woods. Two centuries ago, this was all woods, then it was mostly cleared for farming. Then, about 10 years ago, I think, they turned this whole area into a housing development. Fortunately, they left a lot of the woods, and a lot of the farmland has started returning to forest again. Everybody loved it here until our kids started having problems. My son Michael started complaining that his knees hurt. I thought it was just growing pains, but it didn't get better so we took him to the doctor. After extensive testing, they finally said it was rheumatoid arthritis. But then I found out other children, like Mary Martinez and Zack Jones, were diagnosed with the same thing. The pediatricians told us juvenile arthritis is not contagious, but three kids in the same area suddenly getting the exact same thing? Can that just be coincidence?
Jennifer went to Sierra Leone as a medical volunteer. The hospital she was working in over there was dealing with some strange epidemic, so they put her right to work. The patients she was working with were very sick. But they just airlifted her back to the States because she is desperately ill now, too. She arrived here in the hospital last night in terrible pain with a raging fever. Her throat is so raw she can't swallow, so we're administering nourishment and medications intravenously. I think she may be bleeding internally. Her parents are in the waiting room hoping I've got some answers.
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