Rare Infectious Diseases: Insights From Matthew Pullen, MD on Nipah, Scarlet Fever, Blastomycosis, and Dengue


Matthew Pullen, MD, explains rare infectious diseases, including Nipah, Scarlet Fever, Blastomycosis, and Dengue, that should be on the radar of every healthcare worker despite their rarity in the US.

Matthew Pullen, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine at The University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota, is no stranger to rare infectious diseases. As a member of Infection Control Today®’s (ICT®’s) Editorial Advisory Board, he offers valuable insights into the nuances of diseases like Nipah, Scarlet Fever, Blastomycosis, and Dengue.

Scarlet Fever, a disease Pullen knows well, had a profound impact on him during his childhood in Alaska. Recounting his experience, he shares, “I remember laying on my couch in the apartment we had in that village and standing up and just feeling really lightheaded and sitting back down on the couch and telling my mom I didn't feel well. And she came over, and she said I was just read from head to toe. And it happened in maybe an hour."

Matthew Pullen, MD    (Photo courtesy of Matthew Pullen, MD)

Matthew Pullen, MD

(Photo courtesy of Matthew Pullen, MD)

Pullen explained that his parents rushed him to the clinic, “And they cooled me down with ice packs because I was very feverish and getting penicillin instead of my fever hadn't broken. [Had it hadn’t not broken,] I would have [had] to be flown to Fairbanks probably. Because there's no driving in Barrow [now called Utqiagvik].”

Infection Control Today and Contagion are collaborating for Rare Disease Month.

Infection Control Today and Contagion are collaborating for Rare Disease Month.

He then describes later in medical school, while studying scarlet fever, "I was working on a research project on group A strep with lab. And we needed just controlled blood to test for antibodies to different specific strains of strep. And all of us are just picking ourselves and using the blood. And we're like volunteers, which was nice; we got to contribute to our own research. And there was one that was M type; they're a type based on the M protein that they have. There's one that my body just reacted violently [to], just off the charts, antibody production, like I imagined. My body probably remembers that one.”

With a wealth of experience and expertise in infectious diseases, Pullen also emphasizes the importance of safety when traveling to areas with mosquito-borne illnesses. “If you're going to a country with mosquito-borne disease, like repellent, mosquito nets, all that good stuff, and take your malaria prophylaxis,” he advises.

Throughout the exclusive interview with ICT, by describing his personal encounters and professional endeavors, Pullen sheds light on the realities and precautions associated with rare infectious diseases, offering valuable guidance for both health care professionals and the public alike.

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