Parents in New Jersey are concerned after a state medical examiner determined a virus causing severe respiratory illness across the country is responsible for the death of a 4-year-old boy.
Hamilton Township health officer Jeff Plunkett said the Mercer County medical examiner’s office found the death of Eli Waller was the result of enterovirus D-68. Waller, the youngest of a set of triplets, died in his sleep at home on Sept. 25.
The virus has sickened more than 500 people in 43 states and Washington, D.C.— almost all of them children. Waller is the first death in New Jersey directly linked to the virus.
School officials are awaiting test results on a second child at Yardville Elementary School in Hamilton Township, MyFoxPhilly.com reported. According to the news site, the boy was Waller’s classmate.
At a community meeting held Sunday, parents called for better communication from school officials.
“They’re not saying this is over with. And I guess that’s what I need to hear, that it was an isolated case. It’s not,” Linda Bonfonti, who has a grandchild in the school district.
District officials said a complete scrub-down in the schools was ongoing, and that they are continuing to examine their protocol, the news site reported.
Waller was asymptomatic before his death, and the onset of his illness was rapid, Plunkett said.
He stayed home from school Sept. 24 with a case of pink eye, but the medical examiner found that to be unrelated to the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this week that four people infected with the virus had died, but it’s unclear what role the virus played in the deaths.
Some children are especially vulnerable to infection due to pre-existing conditions, but the medical examiner said that was not the case in the New Jersey boy’s death. Most of the severe cases nationwide have involved children because they generally have not been exposed to enteroviruses as often as adults have and are less likely to have developed an immunity to them, officials say.