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Southwest illness may have killed two in Calif.

Two people died and five others became ill in California with a respiratory illness similar to a mystery flu that has killed 16 other people in the Southwest, state health officials said Wednesday.

Two of the five people are in hospitals in California and three have recovered, the officials said. Six of the cases were reported this year while one dates back to August.

The California cases turned up after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked states to report any adult respiratory disease cases similar to the illness in the Southwest.

The illness has been dubbed "Navajo flu" because many of the victims lived on or near the Navajo reservation. Cases have been reported in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

But California health officials stressed there was no confirmation of a link with the Southwestern outbreak and no evidence that any of the California victims had contracted the hantavirus suspected in those cases.

Serum from the seven California patients is being sent to the CDC for analysis.

The mystery Southwestern illness is believed to be spread through contact with rodent urine.