Earlier this week, we reported about a mystery illness in Alabama. Ten people were hospitalized due to the illness, and two cases proved fatal, but the question of what the illness is had been solved and authorities are now breathing easier because of the results. It turns out that the illnesses that had so many wondering what was going on is simply a combination of a cough and flu, and the hospitalizations were simply coincidental.
Any unknown illness can be concerning to health officials, and this one was no different. It’s not unheard of that people become ill with more than one virus at a time, but it’s not every day that so many patients seek medical care for the same set of “mystery” symptoms. With the many frightening illnesses surfacing across the globe lately, health officials worldwide are feeling increased concern.
The public health department in Alabama became increasingly worried when two of the victims of this illness passed away. There were fears that the illnesses were either the Corona Virus that is much like SARS, or the H7N9 bird flu that has so many worried in other parts of the world.
The H7N9 bird flu has proven to be more contagious and has spread to more people in a shorter amount of time than before, and Chinese officials are feeling both an economic pinch and an increased concern that this virus is more serious than previously thought. Because of these concerns, medical officials in the US are on extra high alert for any set of symptoms that look suspicious.
On Thursday, the Alabama Department of Public Health released a statement that the mystery illness is a combination of one of the many strains of flu and the common cold. Dr. Richard Besser, Chief Health and Medical Editor for ABC News says, “This is a great example of science sorting through the mystery of a ‘pseudo-outbreak.’ As expected these were a variety of infections that just happened to occur close in time.”
When several people went to the hospital with the same symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath and coughing for no cause or reason, the health department began to become concerned. The lead investigator, Dr. Mary McIntyre said that two of the patients did pass away due to pneumonia.
Although all the patients lived in Alabama, they had almost nothing in common. Even the ages, which span between the mid 20’s to the late 80’s, seemed to raise questions. According to Dr. Besser, the fact that the illnesses proved to be more coincidental than officials expected doesn’t matter, because the health department made a solid decision.
He says that it’s never safe to assume that no connection exists because when that happens, it’s usually wrong. He says that the next pandemic of flu or SARS could be extremely similar to these cases. It is standard protocol that each time one of these illness clusters comes up; they are treated just as this one was.
As for the other patients, they all seem to be doing better. One patient was released on Tuesday, and the rest seem to be improving. As for healthcare providers in the state of Alabama, hopefully things can return to normal, and they will be able to breathe a bit easier for a while.