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Officials Investigate Whether Enterovirus D68 Caused N.J. 4-Year-Old's Death

HAMILTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A New Jersey pre-schooler is dead after suffering an unidentified illness, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will test to see if the now-infamous enterovirus D68might have been the cause.

As CBS 2's Christine Sloan reported, parents at the Yardville Elementary School in Hamilton, New Jersey, were shaken and saddened Friday. Health officials said a 4-year-old who attended the school for pre-school died early Thursday at home.

"Everybody wants to know – what? What happened?" said parent Alissa Reinhardt-Swayze. "I think that's what is going to ease everybody's mind."

"I believe our principal is doing everything she can, and it's just a tragedy," said parent Fiona Elliott. "You know, it happened, and I'm comfortable with my kids in school, and they'll be going again on Monday."

The 4-year-old boy was identified in a call to parents from the school as Eli Waller.

Health officials said they have sent samples to both the state and the CDC to determine whether the enterovirus caused the child's death.

They are also taking other precautions.

"I just thought it was prudent, along with superintendent, to clean and sanitize that child's classroom, just as a preventative measure; as a calming measure," said Hamilton Township Health Officer Jeff Plunkett. "We try to protect everyone, just in case it was a respiratory virus."

Students were moved out of the classroom and into another location for their lessons.

Officials Investigate Whether Enterovirus D68 Caused N.J. 4-Year-Old's Death

Health officials said while they do not want parents to be alarmed, they do want them to be on the lookout for symptoms that go along with the respiratory virus.

"The symptoms that they need to look out for would be the normal flulike symptoms – coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever," Plunkett said. "If there's there is additional asthma or underlying conditions, certainly that would add to it."

Counselors were also brought in to help parents and students deal with the loss.

Health officials say enteroviruses are common, but the strain of D68 is less common.

There are no specific treatments for the virus, but there are things you can do to protect yourself and others:

- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

Health officials also suggest parents call their physician if a child shows symptoms of the respiratory virus.

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