Enduring Legacies Native Case Studies

Case Study

Hantavirus and the Navajo Nation: A Double Jeopardy Disease

Author:Linda Moon Stumpff


This case discusses the outbreak of hantavirus in 1993, focusing on the impacts to the Navajo Nation in terms of the loss of life and health from the disease, followed by events that were sometimes linked to negative external and internal events. The investigation and media coverage following the disease itself created a double-jeopardy situation for the Navajo people who were already suffering from the impacts of the disease. The case unfolds around the differing, but sometimes parallel approaches of Western medicine and Navajo traditional medical knowledge in the areas of understanding, diagnosing, and caring for patients who came down with what came to be known as Sin Nombre Virus. This particular variety of the global disease hantavirus appeared in the United States in 1993. The case offers the opportunity to compare perceptions about the scientific investigations into the disease from the perspectives of Western science and from the unique perspectives of Navajo culture and healing methodologies.

Updated: October 25, 2010