Arizona public-health officials said Wednesday that lab tests have confirmed the state’s first case of a viral strain that triggers potentially severe respiratory illness in children.
State health officials said the child who tested positive for enterovirus D68 is now healthy, but provided no other details such as age, gender or where in Arizona the child lives.
Arizona Department of Health Services officials also would not comment on the status of pending tests for a Peoria first-grader and a Phoenix infant who both died after recent bouts with reported respiratory illness.
Enterovirus is a common virus with more than 100 strains that typically circulate during the summer and fall. But the D68 strain of the virus, tied to more severe respiratory illness, has been circulating nationwide since mid-August, with 941 confirmed cases.
Department of Health Services officials said that testing has been completed for 27 samples, and just one has been confirmed for the D68 strain.
Six samples have tested positive for rhinovirus, a common cold virus, and another six have tested positive for enterovirus and rhinovirus. Some less-precise tests administered at area hospitals do not distinguish between enterovirus and rhinovirus. Another 14 samples did not have either virus.
In addition, 17 other samples are pending at Arizona’s laboratory or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s labs, said Laura Oxley, spokeswoman for the Department of Health Services.
Arizona’s state lab does not have the sensitivity to test for the D68 strain, but Arizona is working to obtain that capability, Oxley said. Until then, only the CDC labs can confirm whether a sample has the D68 strain.
Five-month-old Lancen Kendall of Phoenix died Oct. 10 after becoming severely sick with a respiratory illness. His family set him down for a nap and soon noticed he wasn’t breathing. He was rushed by ambulance to Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, where he died five days later, according to his family.
The hospital’s preliminary test showed that the boy had enterovirus and rhinovirus, which are both common-cold viruses. Lancen’s mother, Kathleen Kendall, said she was told by state health officials Wednesday evening that Lancen’s test has not been completed yet.
“They told us our test is still pending. We still don’t know whether it has been confirmed,” Kendall said.
Peoria first-grader John Lucas “Luke” Smith died last week after he became sick with respiratory illness. The day after school officials informed parents of the boy’s death, 80 percent of children at Vistancia Elementary School did not show up for classes. No test results have been made public for Smith.
The CDC said that it began using a newer, faster test that will allow it to work more quickly through pending samples. The federal agency also said that it expects the number of cases will begin to decline by late fall, and it is assessing preliminary reports that the number of new infections is trending down.