The medical examiner of Mercer County in New Jersey has ruled that 4 year-old Eli Waller died due to enterovirus D68. The virus has infected a large number of children through out the country resulting in an abnormal number of hospitalizations. Though four other children who had tested positive with the virus have died since mid-August, this is the first official ruling attributing a death to the virus. The Mercer County medical examiner identified no other potential cause for the death of the New Jersey child. The parents of Eli Waller had noticed no symptoms the night their son died.
Health professionals are particularly concerned with neurological symptoms that seem to be linked with D68. Some patients have experienced muscle weakness with the presence of a lesion on the spine. Though the virus does not necessarily cause these symptoms, health professionals are asking hospitals to report cases in which muscle weakness and a lesion is present and to test patient with these symptoms for D68. Four cases that have presented the D68 virus and neurological symptoms have been identified in Colorado while three more patients are awaiting testing for the virus in Philadelphia.
“We would love to know if this is really the cause, but it’s not at all clear yet that it is,” said Brenda Banwell, chief of neurology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, on the link between enterovirus D68 and the neurological symptoms presented in some cases.
When comparing to other seasonal illnesses like the flu, which can account for over a 100 deaths most years, a relatively few number of deaths can be linked to D68. Despite this there has been great concern over the safety of children from this virus. Parents, schools, and local governments have taken steps to disseminate information and protect children from the virus. Health professionals encourage the public to maintain standard health precautions such as washing hands regularly and remaining home if sick. Children with pre-existing respiratory maladies are most at risk from this and other viruses.
Read More – Questions and Offers at N.J. Meeting On Enterovirus (The Inquirer on Philly.com, Tom Avril)