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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama health officials say a mysterious respiratory illness has left five people hospitalized and two dead in the southeastern part of the state.

In a statement, Alabama Department of Public Health spokeswoman Mary McIntyre says seven people have been admitted to hospitals with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Two of the seven have died and McIntyre says the department and the Centers for Disease Control Respiratory Laboratory are analyzing lab tests from all seven.

McIntyre says it's unclear what's causing the illness. Authorities are urging hospital staff to wear masks when caring for patients who appear to be suffering from respiratory illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control referred all questions to Alabama health officials.

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