Mystery Illness Kills 2 in Alabama
5 others hospitalized with respiratory affliction
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2013 4:27 AM CDT
Updated May 22, 2013 7:40 AM CDT
Staff in Alabama hospitals have been urged to wear protective masks.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – State and federal officials are scrambling to investigate a mysterious respiratory illness that has killed two people and left five others hospitalized in southeast Alabama. Officials describe the outbreak as a cluster of illnesses with flulike symptoms, with fever, coughing, and shortness of breath as the most important symptoms to look out for, the Dothan Eagle reports. Thus far, it appears geographically confined, says an Alabama public health rep, though, "we don't know—we haven't received reports from anywhere else. That's why we're trying to get the information out."

A state health official says the first case surfaced April 19 and there doesn't seem to be any common denominator among the patients, with young people and at least one elderly person among the victims. It's not clear how contagious the disease is, officials say, but no family members of the victims have fallen ill. The Centers for Disease Control Respiratory Laboratory is analyzing lab tests and hopes to have results today or tomorrow, the AP reports.