'Mystery illness' in Alabama a mix of flu, cold and pneumonia

May 25, 2013 at 12:58 AM
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MONTGOMERY, Ala., May 25 (UPI) -- Alabama officials say the "mystery illness" that hospitalized seven and killed two was influenza A, the virus associated with the cold and bacterial pneumonia.

Officials at the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Houston County Health Department in Alabama said earlier in the month seven patients were admitted to a hospital with fever, cough and shortness of breath with no known cause for their illness.

Dr. Mary McIntyre, assistant state health officer for disease control and prevention, said public health investigators interviewed the families of the patients about travel and exposure. Patient specimens were requested and submitted to the ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories in Montgomery.

Of the seven patients, six were positive for either influenza A, rhinovirus -- the virus associated with the common cold -- or a combination of the two, and three patients were found to have bacterial pneumonia. Two of the seven patients eventually died, McIntyre said.

"This is good news," Dr. Don Williamson, Alabama state health officer, said in a statement. "Testing has ruled out avian flu and novel coronavirus."

McIntyre said enhanced surveillance associated with this cluster is no longer necessary, but healthcare providers are encouraged to continue routine year-round influenza surveillance activities and submit specimens to the state laboratory for testing.

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