CDC investigating Fort Worth couple’s deaths in Fiji

The flu wasn’t responsible for the still-unexplained deaths of a Fort Worth couple on vacation in Fiji, the island’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services said in a statement Wednesday amid ongoing investigations in Fiji and the U.S.

David and Michelle Paul died within two days of each other more than a week ago on the South Pacific island after they developed illnesses that quickly worsened. At the request of the Ministry, the Centers for Disease Control has launched its own investigation and is awaiting specimens from the island for testing, according to a CDC statement on Wednesday.

The CDC didn’t specify what those specimens entail. The organization said on Wednesday it hadn’t yet received samples but they were on the way.

The Ministry is trying to determine a cause with assistance from several agencies, according to the release, including the CDC, the U.S. Embassy in Fiji, Fiji police and the World Health Organization.

“Influenza has been ruled out, and at this stage we do not believe there is any risk to the public,” the statement read. “It would be premature to speculate further on the cause of death until the investigation is complete.”

There have been few answers about how David, 38, and Michelle, 35, came to die within days of each other, and the bodies have remained overseas for medical investigations.

Marc Calanog, Michelle’s father, said he heard from the U.S. Embassy in Fiji on Wednesday that the CDC needs to do more work before a root cause of death can be determined. It’s possible, he said, that they could request additional specimens from the bodies for further research.

If it’s ultimately determined there was a deadly infection, the family will elect to have the bodies be cremated in Fiji, Calanog said. The only other option, he said, is transportation inside hermetically sealed bags.

The family would want the bodies back for a final viewing if it’s ruled there was no infectious disease, Calanog said.

He said Marriott, Michelle’s employer, and Lockheed Martin, David’s employer, have worked with SOS International to set up the transportation of the remains and are also handling the funeral.

Calanog on Tuesday said he had been frustrated with the lack of answers in the death investigations. But, on Wednesday, he said he was feeling slightly more encouraged after hearing from the CDC.

“Right now,” he said, “I’m seeing work is being done.”

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