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CDC confirms first case of enterovirus in Arizona

PHOENIX — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of enterovirus D68 in Arizona on Wednesday.

Last week, a Phoenix-area student passed away while being treated for a severe respiratory illness. There was early speculation the virus may have played a part, but an email sent to Vistancia Elementary parents Wednesday said “the positive test results are for a child who has already recovered from the illness”.

The virus can cause mild coldlike symptoms including runny noses, coughing and wheezing but Mark Pallansch, director of the viral diseases division at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this summer’s cases are unusually severe and include serious breathing problems.

“It’s not highly unusual but we’re trying to understand what happened this year in terms of these noticeable and much larger clusters of severe respiratory disease,” Pallansch said.

The virus typically causes illness lasting about a week and most children recover with no lasting problems.

The virus first cropped up in the U.S. in 1962 and a small number of cases have been regularly reported since 1987. Lab tests by the CDC have confirmed illness caused by the virus in hundreds of people in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Almost all are children. Testing is limited and has been focused on very sick children, so it’s likely that many, many more people — including adults — have been infected.

The KTAR Newsroom, KTAR’s Sandra Haros and the Associated Press contributed to this report.