CONROE, Texas – The investigation into a mysterious illness in Montgomery County is expanding as other hospitals and doctors report similar cases.
The new case files are being reviewed for similarity to the eight at Conroe Regional Medical Center that prompted a Montgomery County Health Department investigation.
Four of those eight patients died and two are still fighting for their lives.
"We don’t currently have a diagnosis for what has caused those illnesses," Montgomery County Medical Director Dr. Mark Escott said.
State and regional health departments have already been notified and are also looking for reports of new cases.
"Other health departments will need to be looking for cases like this to make sure that we haven’t missed cases," Dr. Escot said.
Technically, the illness is classified as an influenza-like illness or ILI. There have been nearly 2,000 ILI cases in Montgomery County this year, but these eight are different.
"Eight serious cases at a local hospital that developed with influenza-like symptoms that developed serious complications, including death for four of those eight patients," said Montgomery County Medical Director Dr. Mark Escott.
At least some of those patients, all between the ages of 41 and 65, developed pneumonia.
They all tested negative for standard strains of the flu, and that is part of the problem.
"The big worry about a situation like this is, ‘Could this be a novel flu of some sort?’" Escott explained. "It could certainly be lots of other viruses or other diseases but that is the big concern."
Wayne and Judith Law recently lost their daughter to a similar illness. Fifty-year-old Gayla Marcantel died last week at a hospital in North Harris County.
"It is just devastating. You see your child lying there, swelling because of all the fluids and they can’t do anything," Judith Law said.
Marcantel was perfectly healthy until she came down with flu-like symptoms about three weeks ago and ended up in ICU.
"They were seemingly doing everything that they could do. It was just a continual thing of trying something new," Judith Law said.
The Laws stayed by their daughter’s side and watched helplessly as she continued to go downhill.
Eventually, her body couldn’t fight anymore and her organs failed.
"We lost her," Judith said through tears. "You have no answers. You rely on what the doctors are telling you, but you still have questions and they really have no answers."
Viewers have contacted us about similar cases in other areas, but experts are just beginning to look at additional cases.
The health department in Montgomery County is urging everyone to do their part to prevent any illness from spreading: wash hands frequently; cover your cough but don’t cough into your hands; stay home if you’re sick; and get to the doctor within the first 48 hours of illness.