US couple die two days apart in Fiji, and health officials still don’t know why

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Michelle and David Paul died within two days of each other from a unknown ailment.

Fijian health officials say they still do not have any answers on why a Texas couple died while holidaying on the island, although a mystery illness appears to be the cause.

Key points:

  • The exact illness is still unknown but endemic diseases have been ruled out
  • Authorities are investigating samples but officials say there is no public risk
  • The couple left their two young children with family to take a week-long holiday in Fiji

Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services said in a statement that the investigation is ongoing into the deaths of 38-year-old David Paul and 35-year-old Michelle Paul late last month, but that officials do not believe the public is at risk. 

“Although they were provided medical treatment as standard of care, their illnesses progressively worsened and despite best efforts, they died within a few days of each other,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The exact cause of the illness or nature of the ailment is still unknown, but officials say they have ruled out influenza and other endemic diseases in Fiji — like typhoid, meningococcal and dengue fever which have caused health concerns for tourists in the past — as a possible cause.

“For more than a week, the US Embassy has been closely working with the Fiji Government, police, and health officials in their investigation into the tragic deaths of two US citizens while on holiday in Fiji,” a spokesperson from the embassy said.

“[We have] facilitated contact between the US Centres for Disease Control and Fiji’s Ministry of Health to ascertain the causes of death and to assist in any related measures.

“At this point, we are not aware of any specific public-health threat to the community. We will provide updates as appropriate.”

Michelle Paul’s father, Marc Calanog, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week that the couple met five years ago in Hawaii and that both loved beaches and snorkelling.

‘I did not think it was so serious’

David and Michelle Paul

Mr Calanog said the couple had planned to visit Fiji from May 19 to May 27, settling on that time because family members could watch their two young children.

He said he got a text message from Michelle on May 24 that said they were throwing up and going to the doctors.

“We are both going to doctor now. We have been throwing up for eight hours. David also has diarrhoea. My hands are numb.”

He said he got a call on May 25 that Michelle was dead, and that David Paul was dead two days later.

“I did not think it was so serious,” Mr Calanog told the newspaper.

“I was stunned. I almost cried, but I didn’t cry because I was holding onto my emotions … I would say I was emotionally shocked.”

Fiji: Mysterious deaths of US tourists could deter other travellers


David Paul, an Air Force veteran, worked as an engineer at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, a company spokesman said, while Michelle Paul worked for Marriott International, according to the company.

The ministry in Fiji said staff and health workers who were in contact with the couple are being monitored as a precaution, but that all are currently well, and investigations into the exact cause of death are ongoing after a post-mortem last Saturday revealed that it was an unknown illness.

“It would be premature to speculate further on the cause of death until the investigation is complete,” the statement said.

The CDC said it was working with the Fijian Government to investigate, which will include testing specimens in CDC laboratories and samples have been sent overseas for further testing and might take weeks to determine.