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Alabama Mystery Illness Kills 2, Hospitalizes 7

Update Date: May 22, 2013 12:12 PM EDT

Health officials are mystified at a strange illness that has cropped up in Alabama. So far, two people have died and seven people have been hospitalized from the disease of unknown origin.

According to the Associated Press, the virus was first reported at the end of last week, though the illness appears to have cropped up as early as April 19. The last person was hospitalized on Monday. Authorities are treating the patients as if they had the flu, since all have reported shortness of breath, fever and a cough. They are all being treated at the same hospital in Dothan, Alabama. The patients have not been identified to the press, though officials do say that they range in age from their twenties to their eighties.

According to the Troy Messenger, five of the patients with the illness remain in the hospital. One has tested positive during initial tests for H1N1, while another has tested positive for influenza A. Officials are still inspecting the laboratory results for the others, and are performing additional tests on all of the patients.

WSFA reports that none of the patients appear to have connections to one another. There are no indications that the patients have traveled under the country, which would likely be a consideration for connecting the illness to the novel coronavirus which, typical of influenzas, has similar symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials urge people not to panic, as there is so little that they know about the disease yet. They do not even know if there is an outbreak right now. They do suggest that hospital workers wear breathing masks when dealing with patients with respiratory conditions and take other precautions as well, such as frequently washing their hands.

The Dothan Eagle reports that all seven patients are from an eight-county area that includes Barbour, Coffee, Crenshaw, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Pike County. No similar clusters have appeared elsewhere in the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to contact their health care provider if they have symptoms like shortness of breath, fever and cough.

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