Flu ruled out for New Jersey preschooler who died; Enterovirus still a possibility

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Toni Yates has the details from Hamilton Township. (WABC)

Influenza has been ruled out in the death of the pre-school student from New Jersey, but health officials have yet to determine if the boy suffered from the Enterovirus 68 that is sickening children throughout the country.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is conducting further tests, but residents in Hamilton Township held a meeting Monday with Hamilton Health Officer Jeff Plunkett to discuss their concerns.

The 4-year-old boy, whose name has not been released, attended Yardville Elementary School and died at home on Thursday.

The majority of parents say they're not feeling that comfortable just yet, with about 40 percent of the students absent as they wait for word on the cause of death.

Immediately after the death was reported, the district removed items from that student's classroom, which was disinfected.

"My child is here today," parent Robert Fusik said. "I feel very safe, with all the cleaning that went on. The school is definitely safe."

The health department says extra posters are up in the school reminding kids about the importance of proper hygiene as they wait for final word from the CDC. And they hoped more parents felt comfortable after the meeting.

In recent weeks, health officials in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut have reported their first cases the potentially serious respiratory illness, which is more likely found in infants and children who suffer from asthma.

At least 130 cases have been confirmed nationwide, the worst needing life support for breathing difficulties. No deaths have been reported previously.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

To help protect yourself and others from enterovirus infections:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

  • Avoid close contact (kissing, touching, sharing eating utensils and shaking hands) with people who are sick

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as door knobs and toys

  • Stay home when sick and call your healthcare provider

  • Use good respiratory hygiene; coughing and sneezing into a tissue or elbow and properly disposing of tissues.


  • Keep in mind, this is the season for several cold and flu viruses. For parents, it's not important that you know which one, just that you know what to watch for. Pay attention to symptoms that worsen quickly and difficulty breathing -- warning signs it may be more than just a cold.

    The strain is not new but only a small number of labs can test for it. Since mid-August, there's been an unusual spike in identified cases. The CDC has tested more than 200 specimens from more than 30 states.

    Investigators say it's not yet clear what triggered the outbreak or whether it's worsening.

    New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd is advising parents and health care providers to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this respiratory illness with symptoms that range from mild to severe. Although enteroviruses are very common, especially in the late summer and fall, this form occurs less commonly than other enterovirus infections.

    One school in Emerson, New Jersey is doing some extra cleaning to ward off the virus:


    Some 10 to 15 million enterovirus cases occur in the U.S. each year.

    Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.

    Typically, EV-D68 causes upper respiratory symptoms such as cough, runny nose, sneezing and body/muscle aches and possibly low-grade fever. Infected individuals generally recover on their own without incident. However, some individuals, especially those with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, may experience severe complications and require hospitalization with supportive therapy.

    "If you, or your child, are experiencing cold like symptoms and are having difficulty breathing, contact your health care provider right away," O'Dowd said.

    The New Jersey Health Department has been in communication with hospitals, local health departments, healthcare providers, child care centers and schools over the last week to monitor the situation and provide testing guidance. About a dozen specimens are being sent to the CDC for testing to determine if the EV-D68 type is present.

    The preventive steps people can take to avoid becoming ill and the treatment are similar to those of most illnesses like the flu. Good hand hygiene is your best defense against getting infected with enterovirus.

    "Some families certainly seem a little more panicked. They would say it seems like the old cold and cough my kid gets but now i'm worried about this virus," said Andrea Berne, a nurse practitioner with Tribeca Pediatrics.

    To learn more about the virus, please visit the Center for Disease Control's website at www.cdc.gov.

    ABC Health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser has more information about the virus.


    There is no vaccine or specific antiviral medication for enterovirus infections.

    Related Topics:
    healthchild deathHamilton Township (Mercer County)
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