Cluster of Deaths Following Flu-Like Symptoms in Calvert County

Cause of illness not immediately determined

Wednesday, Mar 7, 2012  |  Updated 8:23 AM EDT
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The Calvert County Health Department is investigating a cluster of deaths following respiratory illnesses in the Lusby area.

Melissa Mollet

The Calvert County Health Department is investigating a cluster of deaths following respiratory illnesses in the Lusby area.

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The Calvert County Health Department is investigating a cluster of deaths following respiratory illnesses in the Lusby area.

The county health department told News4 four family members who live near the Calvert Cliffs nuclear facility fell ill with an unidentified respiratory illness at the end of February, and three died this month.

Preliminary tests at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Laboratories Administration found that two of the deceased had the flu and may have been complicated by bacterial co-infection.

An 81-year-old woman was the first to become sick, in late February.  The woman's three adult children, two daughters and a son, traveled to her home to care for her.  Subsquently, they became sick with similar health problems.

According to the health department, the 81-year-old who died presented symptoms of respiratory illness Feb. 23 and died March 1. The children showed symptoms around Feb. 28 and were hospitalized in critical condition. Several days later, the 58-year-old son and the 56-year-old daughter died, and the third daughter remains hospitalized.

One of the bodies was taken to Baltimore for an autopsy, Maryland Medical Examiner David Fowler said.

Health officer David Rogers, in a statement released March 6, said the county health department does not believe the illness represents a widespread health threat. Health officials have not recommended protective actions for the general public.

"The cases appear to be confined to a single family," Rogers wrote, "and there are currently no other affected individuals at this time. CCHD is not recommending any protective actions for the general public."

In an earlier statement, the county erroneously reported four deaths.

The department recommends people with flu-like symptoms like fever, cough or sore throat contact their doctors to see if they would benefit from antiviral or other medications. Currently, county health officials are not advising any specific preventive measures.

CCHD sent a message to area residents to say it was working together with health care providers to monitor the situation and determine a cause for the respiratory illness.  A spokesperson told News4 the victims' proximity to the power plant was not believed to be a factor.

Monday afternoon, a crew of health workers dressed in hazardous material suits entered the woman's house and collected more samples for testing.

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