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Alabama mystery illness solved: it's common flu

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm •  Published: May 23, 2013

The bird flu has caused 131 illnesses and 32 deaths since the beginning of the year, according to the World Health Organization. The SARS-like virus (called MERS) has been identified as the cause of 44 illnesses, including 22 deaths, the WHO said.

Neither seems to be highly contagious so far, and neither illness has been reported in the United States. But in a world of daily international air travel, it's always possible that a new germ of concern will hitchhike on an infected globetrotter and enter this country.

The CDC tested the Alabama patients for MERS, for different forms of flu and for more than a dozen other illnesses, the agency spokeswoman said.

Dr. Mary McIntyre, head of infectious diseases for the state public health agency, said the precautions taken by Alabama were worthwhile. She said using the same protocol, a pediatrician in north Alabama last year observed a new Coxsackie virus, a type of hand, foot and mouth disease in children. By identifying the new strain, the disease was able to be slowed and children treated in other states.