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Alarming Rate : Town Buries Its Latest Child Cancer Victim

United Press International

Mario Bravo, latest fatal victim of childhood cancer in the farming community of McFarland, was buried Wednesday as residents awaited a closer look at the cause of incidents of the dreaded disease.

The simple service for the 14-year-old boy was held at Delano Cemetery, about five miles north of McFarland.

More than a score of family and friends from McFarland watched the service in silence while waiting for word on what is going to be done to find the cause of the cancers that have hit at least 11 children in the community of 6,200 during the last decade.

Gary Euler, epidemiologist for the Kern County Health Department, confirmed that the cancer rate in McFarland is well above average.

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Normal Rate

“Based on large population-based studies that have been done throughout the country over the past 20 years, we would expect to see rates of 14 cases per 100,000 per year in populations like those in McFarland,” Euler said.

Mario died of liver cancer Thanksgiving night at a hospital in Delano. His death, the fifth in a two-block area of McFarland, prompted a number of residents to vow to move out of the area even if they have to abandon their homes.

Assemblyman Trice Harvey (R-Bakersfield) asked Gov. George Deukmejian on Monday to declare McFarland a disaster area so state emergency funds can be used to aid the residents.

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However, a spokesman for the governor’s office said Harvey’s request for disaster relief cannot be processed until and unless the Kern County Board of Supervisors first declares a local emergency and then requests the state to do the same.

Screening Center

Harvey said he wants to use state funds to find the cause of the high rate of childhood cancer in the community and to set up a screening center to help detect cancer in the town’s children in its early stages.

“One of the biggest problems is that people are finding out about cancer in children at the point that it is terminal,” Harvey said. “If we can get early detection, maybe some of them can be saved.”

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