Respiratory virus seen in 4 deaths; role unclear

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Enterovirus - updated 10/01/2014
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Respiratory virus seen in 4 deaths; role unclear
AURORA, CO - SEPTEMBER 8: Children's Hospital Colorado is seeing high numbers of respiratory illnesses.9-year-old patient Jayden Broadway of Denver is being treated at the hospital on Monday, September 8, 2014 for the enterovirus 68. Broadway's mother Melissa Lewis gives him a kiss after a coughing fit. Broadway's asthma has made the illness more difficult to fight. A third of the visits to the hospital's emergency department have been for respiratory illnesses. (Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)
AURORA, CO - SEPTEMBER 8: Children's Hospital Colorado is seeing high numbers of respiratory illnesses. 9-year-old patient Jayden Broadway of Denver is being treated at the hospital on Monday, September 8, 2014 for the enterovirus 68. Broadway's asthma has made the illness more difficult to fight. A third of the visits to the hospital's emergency department have been for respiratory illnesses. (Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)
CHILDRENS VIRUS 090814: Map locates the states with suspected cases of children infected with the enterovirus 68; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;
A sign is seen in front of the Yardville Elementary School Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, in Hamilton Township, N.J. A 4-year-old student at Yardville Elementary School, died Thursday of a yet-unidentified respiratory illness, according to a pre-recorded call sent to parents Friday morning from school principal Elena M. Manning. The state Health Department is trying to determine if the boy died of a form of influenza and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has agreed to expedite tests to determine whether enterovirus, which has sickened children in New Jersey and 21 other states, is to blame. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
AURORA, CO - SEPTEMBER 30: News videographers film as Children's Hospital Colorado experts speak during a press conference at the hospital September 30 to update the media on the condition of 10 patients with respiratory enterovirus EV-D68 and the diseases potential link to muscle weakness on September 30, 2014 in Aurora, Colorado. Enterovirus 68 is similar to the common cold, but symptoms can be more serious, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, causing wheezing and in some instances, neurological symptoms and temporary paralysis. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - SEPTEMBER 30: Children's Hospital Colorado expert Samuel Dominguez, MD, PhD, microbial epidemiologist speaks during a press conference at the hospital September 30 to update the media on the condition of 10 patients with respiratory enterovirus EV-D68 and the diseases potential link to muscle weakness on September 30, 2014 in Aurora, Colorado. Enterovirus 68 is similar to the common cold, but symptoms can be more serious, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, causing wheezing and in some instances, neurological symptoms and temporary paralysis. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - SEPTEMBER 30: Children's Hospital Colorado pediatric neurologist Teri Schreiner, MD, speaks during a press conference at the hospital September 30 to update the media on the condition of 10 patients with respiratory enterovirus EV-D68 and the diseases potential link to muscle weakness on September 30, 2014 in Aurora, Colorado. Enterovirus 68 is similar to the common cold, but symptoms can be more serious, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, causing wheezing and in some instances, neurological symptoms and temporary paralysis. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - SEPTEMBER 30: The Children's Hospital Colorado, which has seen 10 patients with respiratory enterovirus EV-D68 after an outbreak in the state, is seen on September 30, 2014 in Aurora, Colorado. Enterovirus 68 is similar to the common cold, but symptoms can be more serious, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, causing wheezing and in some instances, neurological symptoms and temporary paralysis. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - SEPTEMBER 8: Children's Hospital Colorado is seeing high numbers of respiratory illnesses. Doctor Chris Nyquist ,medical director of infection control at the hospital, talks about the illnesses on Monday, September 8, 2014. A third of visits to the hospital's emergency department have been for respiratory illnesses. (Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 5: 13-year-old Will Cornejo is recovering at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver on Friday, September 5, 2014 from what doctors suspect is the respiratory virus, human enterovirus 68 that has come to Colorado. Will's parents Jennifer and Matt Cornejo of Lone Tree were with him. The virus comes on very quick. Will was at school on Tuesday, woke up not feeling well in the night, in the morning his mom found him unconscious on the couch and had to call 911. He was flown to the Denver hospital for treatment. He is in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. (Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 5: 13-year-old Will Cornejo is recovering at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver on Friday, September 5, 2014 from what doctors suspect is the respiratory virus, human enterovirus 68 that has come to Colorado. Will's parents Jennifer and Matt Cornejo of Lone Tree were with him. The virus comes on very quick. Will was at school on Tuesday, woke up not feeling well in the night, in the morning his mom found him unconscious on the couch and had to call 911. He was flown to the Denver hospital for treatment. He is in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. (Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 5: 13-year-old Will Cornejo is recovering at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver on Friday, September 5, 2014 from what doctors suspect is the respiratory virus, human enterovirus 68 that has come to Colorado. Will's parents Jennifer and Matt Cornejo of Lone Tree were with him. The virus comes on very quick. Will was at school on Tuesday, woke up not feeling well in the night, in the morning his mom found him unconscious on the couch and had to call 911. He was flown to the Denver hospital for treatment. He is in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. (Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 5: 13-year-old Will Cornejo is recovering at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver on Friday, September 5, 2014 from what doctors suspect is the respiratory virus, human enterovirus 68 that has come to Colorado. Will's parents Matt (not in photo) and Jennifer of Lone Tree were with him. The virus comes on very quick. Will was at school on Tuesday, woke up not feeling well in the night, in the morning his mom found him unconscious on the couch and had to call 911. He was flown to the Denver hospital for treatment. He is in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. (Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)
AURORA, CO - SEPTEMBER 8: Children's Hospital Colorado is seeing high numbers of respiratory illnesses. 9-year-old patient Jayden Broadway of Denver sits up in his hospital bed coughing as he is being treated at the hospital on Monday, September 8, 2014 for enterovirus 68. Broadway's asthma has made the illness more difficult to fight. A third of visits to the hospital's emergency department have been for respiratory illnesses. (Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 5: 13-year-old Will Cornejo is recovering at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver on Friday, September 5, 2014 from what doctors suspect is the respiratory virus, human enterovirus 68 that has come to Colorado. Will's parents Jennifer and Matt Cornejo of Lone Tree were with him. The virus comes on very quick. Will was at school on Tuesday, woke up not feeling well in the night, in the morning his mom found him unconscious on the couch and had to call 911. He was flown to the Denver hospital for treatment. He is in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. (Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Four people who were infected with a virus causing severe respiratory illness across the country have died, but what role the virus played in the deaths is unclear, health officials said Wednesday.

A 10-year-old Rhode Island girl died last week after suffering both a bacterial infection and infection from enterovirus 68, Rhode Island health officials said. The virus is behind a spike in harsh respiratory illnesses in children since early August.

The virus was also found in three other patients who died in September, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC declined to release any other details about those deaths.

It's not clear what role the virus may have played in the four deaths, officials from Rhode Island and the CDC say.

The Rhode Island child's death was the result of a bacterial infection, Staphylococcus aureus, that hit the girl in tandem with the virus, Rhode Island officials said in a statement.

They called it "a very rare combination," and stressed that most people who catch the virus experience little more than a runny nose and low-grade fever.

The child was in good health before she developed severe breathing problems and her parents called 911, said Dr. Michael Fine, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. She was taken by ambulance to a Providence hospital, where she died.

"Very quickly after they got to the hospital, things became dire," Fine said at a news conference.

This enterovirus germ is not new. It was first identified in 1962 and has caused clusters of illness before. Because it's not routinely tested for, it may have spread widely in previous years without being identified in people who just seemed to have a cold.

This year, the virus has gotten more attention because it has been linked to hundreds of severe illnesses. Beginning last month, hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago have received a flood of children with trouble breathing. Some needed oxygen or more extreme care such as a breathing machine. Many, but not all, had asthma before the infection.

Health officials say they have not detected a recent mutation or other change in the virus that would cause it to become more dangerous.

The government says enterovirus 68 has sickened at least 500 people in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Almost all have been children.

Health officials are also investigating whether the virus played a role in a cluster of 10 Denver-area children who have suffered muscle weakness and paralysis.

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