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Doctors Can't Confirm Or Deny If Respiratory Illness Is In Texas

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Wheezing and difficulty breathing are the sounds that spark fear in every parent. Unfortunately those sounds seem to be spreading across the country. The severe respiratory illness Enterovirus D68 has now been confirmed in at least 10 states and is suspected to have spread to at least seven more.

As it stands Texas isn't among the states with reported cases. But the question is – should it be?

Health professionals at the Dallas County Health Department say it's entirely possible the Enterovirus D68 virus is already here in Texas and we just don't know.

There hasn't been a way for hospitals to test for the virus - until now.

For one family, news about testing for EV-D68 came when teenager Madeleine James started feeling bad.

"I knew something was wrong," the 13-year-old said. "It wasn't just a regular cold."

Madeline went to the doctor with a deep cough, high fever, and runny nose. A battery of tests ruled out the flu, strep, and pneumonia.

Madeline's mother, Dana James, remembers the doctor explaining how her daughter could have the same virus that's sweeping across the Midwest. But there was a problem.

As far as definitively diagnosing Madeline with Enterovirus D68, Dana James said doctors told her, "There's really no way we can prove it."

Doctor Zach Thompson is the Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. "Some hospitals think they might have seen cases, but again there was no way to test for this particular virus."

Thompson says the virus is difficult to track. That's because hospitals aren't required to report suspected cases and tests for the virus aren't readily available.

The state is now asking doctors to report children admitted to ICUs with severe upper respiratory illnesses and to submit their nasal or throat swabs for CDC testing. That option, though, only became available a few days ago.

"To tell you how many cases may have been missed, I don't think anyone can tell you," Thompsons aid plainly.

As for Dana James, the experience left her doubting how much health officials really know.

"Texas has zero confirmed cases. Well, they have zero confirmed cases, because we don't have the test here," she said. "It may be sitting next to you. You don't know."

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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