The Alabama Dept. of Public Health (ADPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are analyzing lab tests from seven patients in southeast Alabama who were admitted to hospitals with an unknown respiratory illness. Early reports say that two of the seven patients who were originally admitted have died.

All of the patients are said to have experienced fever, cough, and shortness of breath in recent weeks. The first patient was admitted late last week and the seventh one was hospitalized this Monday. The patients are believed to be adults ranging from their early 20s to late 80s. The seven individuals do not seem to be connected in any way, coming from different towns in Southeast Alabama. And none of them are believed to have traveled outside of the country.

Public health officials said Tuesday that they have not been able to determine the mysterious illness.

"That's why they are in constant contact with the Centers for Disease Control, hoping the CDC can figure it out. The CDC and ADPH are currently investigating the string of illnesses," said Dr. Mary McIntyre, Alabama Dept. of Health spokeswoman.

Authorities have told hospital staff to wear masks when caring for any patients who have respiratory illnesses. One commonality among a few of the patients is their reports of having the flu recently. One patient tested positive for the H1N1 flu virus while another tested positive for another type of flu. But McIntyre maintains that the cause of the current illness is unclear.

"We're only aware of the Southeast, but we don't know - we haven't received reports from anywhere else," said McIntyre. "That's why we're trying to get the information out."

Health officials don't want people to panic, but they do advise Alabama residents to be very careful.

"Be sure to cover your cough, wash your hands frequently, don't cough on your hands and then shake someone else's hands, to try to prevent from spreading stuff," said McIntyre.