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Very Sick, and Now a Curiosity

Michelle Barnes never imagined that her vacation to Uganda would make her a medical celebrity.

Ms. Barnes, 44, became ill in January 2008, a few days after returning home to Golden, Colo. At first, she seemed to have a typical case of traveler’s diarrhea, but she soon worsened. She broke out in a rash and developed abdominal pain, terrible fatigue, weakness and confusion. Blood tests found her white-cell count low and her liver and kidneys beginning to fail. She was hospitalized, still deteriorating. Her blood was taking too long to clot, and her pancreas and her muscles were inflamed.

Tests for a long list of tropical diseases all came up negative. Doctors were stumped. Their best diagnosis was, “basically, some undefined viral illness,” said Dr. Norman K. Fujita, an infectious disease specialist.
 
 

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