Watch CBS News

Enterovirus D68 claims preschooler as first victim

Four-year-old Eli Waller is the first confirmed Enterovirus D68 death in the United States
New Jersey preschooler dies from Enterovirus D68 02:15

A preschooler in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, four-year-old Eli Waller, is the first confirmed death of Enterovirus D68 in the United States.

His death has stirred both fear and sadness in the town, reports CBS News correspondent Vicente Arenas.

CBS New York obtained a statement from Waller's father, Andy, regarding his son's death on Sunday:

"My words probably won't capture him well, but everyone who met Eli knows how he made people feel; imagine a shy little puppy who wants only to make people proud and happy, maybe tripping a bit over his own paws, but truly full of unconditional love. He was a beautiful mix of eagerness and hesitancy, need and striving, caution and surprise, all of which were grounded in a pure, unconditional love."

About 150 concerned parents and community members questioned officials Sunday night about Enterovirus D68, which authorities said killed Waller, a preschooler at Yardville Elementary.

"I asked if there was a specific cleaning protocol in place," said mother-of-two Jennifer Kraemer.

Eli Waller died on September 25, but the cause of his death was just released Friday.

Waller stayed home from school with pink eye. He went to sleep that night but did not wake up.

"The teachers in the little ones' classroom do a terrific job," district health officer Jeffrey Plunkett said. "If a little one has a sneeze, a cough, they react to it right away."

Enterovirus D68's symptoms include fever, coughing, sneezing and occasionally a rash. Many of the kids affected have had difficulty breathing and asthma attacks.

Kids in multiple states have experienced unexplained paralysis or muscle weakness -- including at least 11 cases in Colorado.

So far this year, 538 people have contracted the virus in 43 states.

Four other deaths are possibly linked to the infection.

Another student in Hamilton Township is now being tested for Enterovirus D68.

Plunkett said it's possible the students could spread the disease through surface contact.

"But I think that's remote how the teachers and the custodial staff handle that classroom and that school, but nothing has been eliminated," Plunkett said.

The district has started a program to make sure surfaces are extra clean.

On Monday the superintendent will meet with all the principals to make sure they understand the precautions that need to be taken to make sure their students are kept safe.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.