A mystery respiratory illness has killed two people and infected five others in Alabama. All of the victims have shown signs of fever, cough and shortness of breath, but the Alabama Department of Public Health hasn't been able to identify the disease.

Officials collected samples from all of the victims and sent them to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, but results aren't available yet. One of the test samples tested positive for H1N1 influenza A, but officials aren't sure if that's what caused the illness.

"At this point it's too early to tell," [Acting state epidemiologist for the Alabama Department of Public Health Dr. Mary] McIntyre told NBC News. "That's why we called it a respiratory illness of unknown origin."

McIntyre did note that none of the victims had travelled – or been in contact with someone who'd travelled – outside the country recently, which would have put them at risk for several unfamiliar diseases.

In recent months, a new strain of Coronavirus surfaced in several countries, including France, the UK and Saudi arabia, killing 18 and infecting another 15. And there's been recent evidence that H7N9, a strain of the bird flu has killed 17 and infected 82 in China, might spread person-to-person, though Alabama officials said there was no evidence linking the infections to H7N9.

[NBC News/Image via Shutterstock]

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