‘Mystery’ illness not a new threat

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, May 23, 2013

Officials have determined the cause of a rash of sicknesses in south Alabama, and they say the public has no reason to fear.

After warning hospitals to take extra precaution earlier this week, The Alabama Department of Public Health said in a release Thursday the unknown respiratory illness cluster that hospitalized 10 people and killed two was caused by “a combination of influenza A, rhinovirus, the virus associated with the common cold, and bacterial pneumonia.”

According to the Associated Press, State Health Officer Don Williamson said that health officials took extraordinary caution earlier because of two new viruses – one in the Middle East and another in China.

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However, additional testing allayed earlier concerns.

“Testing has ruled out avian flu and novel coronavirus,” Williamson said in the release.

Williamson said Thursday that despite an early appearance of a cluster of illness, the cases are unrelated.

During a news conference earlier this week, Houston County Health Department officials said the illnesses date back as far as April 19 and as recently as Monday. Seven of the reported cases were linked to one Dothan hospital. All of the cases came from a 10-county area. Officials did not provide specifics on the counties.

Of the 10 people, two have died, six remain hospitalized and two have been released. They range in age from 24 to 87.