A 4-year-old boy from New Jersey is the first in the country to have died from the respiratory disease enterovirus 68. Although several children and adults have fallen sick and died – including one 10-year-old girl in Rhode Island who reportedly died from complications resulting from the virus, the preschooler is the first whose death doctors have linked directly to the highly contagious illness, reports Fox 8.
Eli Waller reportedly went to bed on the night of Sept. 24 feeling “fine.” He was asthmatic and had been born prematurely, according to his family, but did not suffer from any illnesses. When his parents woke up the following morning, they found him dead – but it wasn’t until last Friday that medical experts could confirm that he had contracted D68.
Eli was the youngest of three triplets, reports ABC News, who was nervous and excited about starting school at Yardville Elementary.
“Eli was not the type to give up, and even though things never really came easily to him, he would just plug away, day after day, practicing sounds, or movements, or skills, until he would eventually get them,” his father wrote in a letter. “He did this entirely in an effort to make his Mom and Dad proud, and we can unequivocally say that we were, and will continue to be, so very proud of our little Eli.”
Doctors say the brain and lymph node swelling Eli experienced was directly related to D68. It isn’t known how he contracted the virus, but one other student at his school – who is in a different class – is reportedly being tested for enterovirus 68.
So far, at least four people who tested positive for D68 have died, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are still trying to determine whether the disease caused their deaths. A 10-year-old from Rhode Island reportedly died last week from Staphylococcus aureus sepis “associated with” enterovirus 68.
Photo Credit: CBS 2, ABC News (Courtesy of the Waller Family)