Health

Mystery flu-like illness kills 4 in Houston

Mon., Jan. 6, 2014 12:34 PM EST
by Louvonia McClain

reedDathany Reed had flu-like symptoms when he was admitted in late November to Conroe Regional Medical Center. A few hours later, he was on life support, however, not quite sure of the cause of death.

The mother of Dathany, Odessa Reed said her son, a father of three children, had been “full of energy and life” until he stayed home from his job at the Golden Corral restaurant on Thanksgiving Day with what he thought was a common cold. He visited the doctor who wrote prescriptions which would have cost him $200 but he decided not to fill them and let the illness run its course. The next day he was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Conroe Regional Medical Center, where doctors were amazed to find his lungs filling with blood and his organs disintegrating explained his mother.

Six other recent cases at the same hospital in Montgomery County in Houston, including three additional deaths all had flu-like symptoms. Wednesday, doctors confirmed two more patients with similar symptoms was diagnosed with what was once known as swine flu but categorized as H1N1. This variation of the strain first appeared in the U.S. back in 2009.

“The staff shared with us that this was happening to others, too. We didn’t know what to think,” Odessa Reed said Wednesday, her voice strained. “He had his 41st birthday while on life support. It was very strange. It happened so quickly.”

In all of the eight cases, initial testing – called rapid diagnostic influenza test – was done and showed negative results for influenza. However, further testing did show that one patient had the H1N1 virus, a subtype of influenza A. Two tested negative for all known flu strains. Culture tests are pending for the other patient still hospitalized, as well as all four who died

Montgomery County Public Health spokeswoman Jennifer Nichols Contella said privacy issues prevented her for naming any of the eight patients, but she did give their ages as 41 to 68.

County health officials, Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are monitoring the cases.

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