A mystery respiratory illness in Alabama has left doctors baffled as to a cause.  Five people are hospitalized and two are dead.  All of the victims have shown signs of fever, cough and shortness of breath, but the Alabama Department of Public Health hasn’t been able to identify the disease.  All seven patients were from Houston County and there is currently no evidence that any of them traveled out of the country or were in contact with anyone who had travelled outside the country.

US Researchers do not believe that this illness is related to a deadly new coronavirus, dubbed the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which has infected 40 people and killed 20 who all traveled to or lived in the Middle East. The coronavirus has recently surfaced in France, the UK and Saudi Arabia.  They also do not have any evidence that it is the H7H9 virus, which has caused 17 deaths and 82 illnesses in China. This virus is a strain of the bird flu spread through person-to-person contact.

There have been no out-of-state reports of this illness. The victims are all adults ranging in age from early 20s to late 80s, and have all been hospitalized in the Southeast Alabama Medical Center.  While all the patients are from the same community, they are spread out and no common factor among the seven has been established. 

Officials collected samples from all of the victims and sent them to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for testing.  While the results aren’t available yet, two of the test samples tested positive for H1N1 influenza A, but officials aren’t sure if that’s what caused the illness.  Dr. Mary McIntyre, an assistant state health officer at the Alabama Department of Public Health has said that right now they are testing for everything.

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