by CAROLINE GAVURA Section Editor
Eli Waller, a four-year-old preschool student, was the country’s first confirmed death due to the enterovirus.
The enterovirus D68 is a serious respiratory disease that has been sweeping the nation. The illness is affecting mainly children, which is why it is causing such a concern.
The Wallers issued a statement describing Eli as a “shy little puppy who wants only to make people proud and happy, maybe tripping a bit over his own paws, but truly filled with unconditional love.”
Waller was an afternoon student at Yardville Elementary School in Hamilton, New Jersey. A morning student, who shared the same classroom as Waller, had a similar respiratory virus and was treated at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
That student is now recovering at home and is waiting for test results from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to see if he also had the enterovirus.
The CDC has confirmed that 594 people across 43 states have had an illness due to the enterovirus D68. In New Jersey alone there are 9 confirmed cases of the virus across eight different counties.
“It’s no wonder parents are concerned. Between this and ebola, people are becoming very paranoid. Everyone wants to know how to prevent themselves and their kids from getting sick,” said senior Kate Broskie.
The symptoms for the virus include: coughing, a runny nose, body and muscle aches and a fever. It seems like a simple cold, until it progresses in wheezing and problems breathing.
Sometimes, as in Waller’s case, there are no symptoms. The four-year-old only showed signs of what looked like pink eye.
Because the enterovirus D68 is so closely related to EV-D68, which causes polio, doctors are worried that the illness could lead to paralyzation in the future.
“Before the polio vaccine was created in the 1950s, thousands of children were crippled because of the virus. It caused an epidemic! I’m praying that the same thing does not happen with enterovirus D86 – for the sake of children and their parents,” said senior Jenna Parisen.
The virus is spread through close contact with the infected. Coughs, sneezes and touching the same things with the virus makes it easier to catch the disease.
Babies, children and teenagers are most at risk for the illness, specifically in outbreaks during summer and early fall.
The CDC said that while there are no antivirals at the moment, over-the-counter pain and fever medication can subside any symptoms.
In Hamilton, special precautions are taking place at Waller’s former school in regards to cleanliness and monitoring. Teachers and staff will be on the lookout for anyone who is displaying symptoms of the virus.
The Waller’s plan to honor their son by creating The First Day of School foundation, which is directed toward special education students.
“Eli was both nervous and excited about starting school, and it is our sincere hope that this foundation can work to help kids in a way that will make Eli proud of us all, in the same way that we were all so proud of him,” said the family in a statement.
How will you protect yourself from the enterovirus?