PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A local child has died as a result of an infection that was associated with enterovirus D68, the Rhode Island Department of Health has confirmed.
The 10-year-old Cumberland girl died from Staphylococcus aureus sepsis — which, when accompanied by Enterovirus D68 — is a rare combination that can cause severe illness in both children and adults, the health department said.
“We are all heartbroken to hear about the death of one of Rhode Island’s children,” said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, who also stressed how rare cases like this are. “Many of us will have EV-D68. Most of us will have very mild symptoms and all but very few will recover quickly and completely. The vast majority of children exposed to EV-D68 recover completely.”
In a Wednesday morning news conference, Dr. Fine said the child was a 10-year-old girl from Cumberland who died last week.
He said the child’s parents called 911 after the girl began complaining of shortness of breath. She was rushed to the hospital where she died. Fine said it happened very quickly, within 24 hours.
He said the girl had no underlying health problems and by all accounts was a healthy child.
Fine said it may be impossible to know exactly what role enterovirus D68 played in this case, but stressed the death – while tragic – was rare and likened it to a “perfect storm.”
“Most of us who have colds, have colds. It is exceptionally rare for something like this to happen,” he said. “Enterovirus is out there. This is nothing different from the normal set of viruses out there.”
According to the Department of Health, only a very small portion of people who contract enterovirus D68 will experience symptoms beyond a runny nose and fever.
For concerned parents, Fine said if a child is having a hard time breathing, that it’s something to pay attention to.
“Parents know their kids and know when something isn’t right,” said Fine, who also stressed the importance of parents having a good relationship with their child’s pediatrician.
While there is no vaccine for enterovirus, Fine pointed to hand-washing as a vital practice to stopping the spread of this and many other illnesses.
In a statement Wednesday, Cumberland Superintendent Dr. Philip Thornton said the school department “will continue to monitor this situation and keep informed of any updated information provided by the RI Department of Health as it becomes available to us.”