Patients with mysterious illness perplex health officials - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Patients with mysterious illness perplex health officials

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(WTVM) -

UPDATE: The Alabama "mystery" respiratory illness, which claimed two lives, has been solved.

Alabama Health Officials revealed in a press conference that the illness was a combination of influenza, the rhinovirus, and bacterial pneumonia.

State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson said, "This is good news. Testing has ruled out avian flu and novel coronavirus."

If you begin to exhibit symptoms of a respiratory illness, seek a health professional. To avoid catching an illness or spreading illness to others, remember to follow these precautions:

· Cover your cough or sneeze with a sleeve or tissue.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.
· Avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose with your hands. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
· If you get sick, stay home and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.

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Alabama Health Officials are waiting on test results from the Centers for Disease Control from seven patients sickened with a mysterious respiratory illness and admitted to Southeast Alabama Medical Center around the same time, starting last Thursday.

Two of the patients died.

Alabama Department of Public Health spokeswoman Dr. Mary McIntyre says all 7 patients were in their early twenties to late 80s.

McIntyre will not confirm the ages of the patients who passed away. 

All seven presented with cough, fever and shortness of breath while most had underlying medical issues like COPD or asthma.

Two patients did test positive for flu, while all seven were diagnosed with an unexplained pneumonia.

McIntyre says the patients live within the hospitals service area, which includes Barbour, Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Pike counties.

The patients are not related, nor have investigators been able to find any common ground between those who got sick.

The investigation into a possible outbreak began last week when a pulmonologist saw three patients back to back with the same symptoms, but could not confirm an illness through cultures and testing.

The CDC stepped in to do a complete pathogen panel to determine if this illness is something doctors have seen before or something totally new.

Results are expected back Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile, a statewide alert has been issued to all caregivers, but so far no new cases have been reported.

Bottom line, health care officials don't know if they have an dangerous outbreak on their hands, but say caution is the best medicine.

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