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Navajo Reservation

June 23, 1993

* "A Mystery Only to 'White Skins' " (Commentary, June 13), about the viral disease on the Navajo reservation, has many inaccuracies. I practiced on the reservation for two years and am familiar with their medical problems.

Although the latest investigation by doctors concludes the disease is caused by droppings from rodents, what do the Navajos do to solve the problem? Nothing. Johnny P. Flynn states that the disease is the result of young people forgetting ancient Navajo teaching. The medicine men are performing cleansing ceremonies to wipe away the disease. Does Flynn believe that this form of alternative medicine will be effective?

They need education in hygiene to eliminate the rodents and their droppings. They need to wash their hands before eating, to stop spitting on the floor and get rid of garbage. Flynn needs to examine history and learn what white doctors have done for the Navajo. The original work on drugs to eradicate tuberculosis was done on the reservation in 1953 because the reservation had the highest incidence of tuberculosis in the country. The medicine men can perform their rituals, but no one who believes that germs and viruses cause disease will believe their methods to be effective.

The article concludes that what the rodents eat is the source of the disease. Nonsense.

JARVEY GILBERT MD

Burbank

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