Flu-Like Illness in Montgomery County Kills Four

Unclear if the illness is a new strain of flu or something else entirely.

The eight cases were all documented at one facility in Montgomery County. County health officials have not specified which facility reported the illness, but the patients ranged in age from 41 to 68 and had severe flu-like symptoms. All eight cases tested negative for influenza.

Dr. Catherine Troisi is an associate professor of epidemiology at the UT School of Public Health.

"We do see people who have influenza-like symptoms, who do not have influenza. There are other virus diseases that can cause this. The fact that four out of eight have died, and were relatively young, 41 to 68, is concerning."

But Troisi points out that we don't know if any of these patients had underlying health problems which would increase their susceptibility to a virus.And she says even though the patients tested negative for influenza, it could still be the flu.

"This isn't all that unusual because all they've tested against is the current flu that's going around. And you don't even know, I mean those tests are not 100 percent accurate, you just don't have a lot of information from this. So the chances are very small that we're going to see some totally new virus from this. It's just something to keep an eye on."

The four surviving patients are at an undisclosed hospital, awaiting more lab results for a diagnosis. Montgomery County health officials have documented nearly 2,000 cases of flu-like illness this flu season.

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Laurie Johnson

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Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...