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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new and virulent strain of adenovirus, which frequently causes the common cold, killed 10 people in parts of the United States earlier this year and put dozens into hospitals, U.S. health officials said on Thursday.
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report detailed cases of people ill in May of 2006 and from March to June of 2007 with a strain of the virus called adenovirus 14 in New York, Oregon, Washington state and Texas.
"Whether you're a healthy young adult, an infant or an elderly person, this virus can cause severe respiratory disease at any age," said John Su, who investigates infectious diseases for the CDC and contributed to the report.
"What makes this particular adenovirus a little different is that it has the capability of making healthy young adults severely ill. And that's unusual for an adenovirus, and that's why it's got our attention," Su said in a telephone interview.
Two of the 10 people who died from the new strain were infants, Su said. The CDC report said about 140 people were sickened by the virus and more than 50 hospitalized, including 24 admitted to intensive care units.
One of those who died was a 19-year-old female recruit at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas where other cases were found.
"Adenoviruses are notorious for causing illnesses, particularly in military recruits," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
A CDC spokesman said there was no evidence the virus was currently causing disease anywhere in the United States.
Adenoviruses frequently cause acute upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold, but also can cause other illnesses including inflammation of the stomach and intestines, pink eye, bladder infection and rashes.
Colds caused by adenoviruses can be very severe in the very young and the very old as well as in certain other people, like those with compromised immune systems.