Alabama Mystery Illness Solved

Mystery Illness

May 24, 2013 – It turns out the mystery Alabama illness was a coincidental cluster of varying viruses, but that doesn’t mean public health officials were wrong to raise the alarm, experts say.

Testing confirmed that the seven respiratory illnesses in the southeastern part of the state were the

result of a mix of the common cold and a strain of flu, rather than the feared new H7N9 bird flu and the new SARS-like virus currently making headlines in other parts of the world, Alabama Department of Public Health announced Thursday.

“This is a great example of science sorting through the mystery of a ‘pseudo-outbreak,'” said Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor for ABC News. “As expected, these were a variety of infections that just happened to occur close in time.”

It turns out the mystery Alabama illness was a coincidental cluster of varying viruses, but that doesn’t mean public health officials were wrong to raise the alarm, experts say.

Testing confirmed that the seven respiratory illnesses in the southeastern part of the state were the result of a mix of the common cold and a strain of flu, rather than the feared new H7N9 bird flu and the new SARS-like virus currently making headlines in other parts of the world, Alabama Department of Public Health announced Thursday.

“This is a great example of science sorting through the mystery of a ‘pseudo-outbreak,'” said Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor for ABC News. “As expected, these were a variety of infections that just happened to occur close in time.”

Since the patients had little in common – their ages ranged from mid-20s to late 80s, and their test results varied — the health department couldn’t find a link among them.

“You never want to assume that there isn’t a connection, because as soon as you do that, you will be proved wrong,” Besser said. “The first cases of the next SARS or the next flu pandemic could look very much like this. You treat every one of these clusters the same: You attack it with rapid public health science.”

The five patients still alive seem to be getting better, McIntyre said Wednesday. One of them was released from the hospital Tuesday.

- Courtesy ABC News/GMA, Sydney Lupkin, May 24, 2013

Mystery Illness

May 23, 20013 – A mysterious sickness appears to be spreading in Southeast Alabama.  State health officials say seven people contracted an unknown respiratory illness. Two of the victims died. The other five people remain hospitalized.

The symptoms include difficulty breathing. Health officials say if you start feeling funny, see a doctor.

“Fever, cough and then there’s shortness of breath,” says Dr. Mary McIntyre with Alabama Dept. of Public Health. “They really need to call their doctor…covering your cough, washing your hands frequently… don’t cough on your hand and then shake somebody else’s hand to be able to, you know, with spreading stuff to try to avoid that.”

Public health officials don’t really know yet what they are dealing with. Samples were taken from all seven patients and sent to a lab to be tested.

- KLAX ABC 31 News, May 23, 2013

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