Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), a common contagious disease that usually affects children, is normally mild but can have life-threatening manifestations. It can be caused by enteroviruses, particularly Coxsackieviruses and human enterovirus 71 (HEV71) with highly variable clinical manifestations. In the spring of 2008, a large, unprecedented HFMD outbreak in Fuyang city of Anhui province in the central part of southeastern China resulted in a high aggregation of fatal cases. In this study, epidemiologic and clinical investigations, laboratory testing, and genetic analyses were performed to identify the causal pathogen of the outbreak. Of the 6,049 cases reported between 1 March and 9 May of 2008, 3023 (50%) were hospitalized, 353 (5.8%) were severe and 22 (0.36%) were fatal. HEV71 was confirmed as the etiological pathogen of the outbreak. Phylogenetic analyses of entire VP1 capsid protein sequence of 45 Fuyang HEV71 isolates showed that they belong to C4a cluster of the C4 subgenotype. In addition, genetic recombinations were found in the 3D region (RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, a major component of the viral replication complex of the genome) between the Fuyang HEV71 strain and Coxsackievirus A16 (CV-A16), resulting in a recombination virus. In conclusion, an emerging recombinant HEV71 was responsible for the HFMD outbreak in Fuyang City of China, 2008.