Michigan toddler Madeline Reid died from enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) on Friday afternoon at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. The 21-month-old girl is the second child to die from the virus in the U.S., and the first in the state of Michigan. EV-D68 has infected more than 500 people across the country, according to health officials on Saturday.
EV-D68 is a type of non-polio enterovirus, of which more than 100 strains are common this time of year, causing more than 10 million infections in the U.S. annually. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that enteroviruses are common in summer and fall, and that “we’re currently in the middle of the enterovirus season.” Few patients who contract EV-D68 develop any symptoms beyond those of the common cold, typically a runny nose and low fever. EV-68 is particularly severe and has sent more children to the hospital with severe respiratory illnesses than what is usually seen.
Madeline reportedly had become paralyzed after she contracted the virus in mid-September. The CDC confirmed that the toddler had EV-D68 after she arrived at Children’s Hospital “for advanced services.” She had been on life support for several weeks, as most of her organs had failed. It was hoped that she would regain enough strength to have surgery for a mechanical heart, but instead she succumbed to her illness.
The CDC, along with state public health laboratories, had documented 691 cases of EV-D68 as of Friday, in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Most of them are children who have become infected since mid-August, according to the CDC. Five patients total who had the virus, besides Madeline, have died although it has not yet been determined if EV-D68 was actually the cause of their deaths, in part because the CDC has a backlog on samples waiting to be tested.
A 4-year-old New Jersey boy died of the virus last month after reportedly feeling fine when he went to bed. He never woke up. His parents had no reason that night to suspect that he was ill. The child’s last name was not disclosed, but his first name was Eli. His death was the first that health officials are directly linking to enterovirus D-68.
Officials in Eli’s home town of Hamilton Township, NJ, are trying not to create undue alarm with the public, but are stressing such things as staying home if sick, sneezing into elbows and sleeves instead of hands and careful hand washing, in an attempt to prevent the spread of any type of virus. Hamilton Township superintendent Jim Parla said they have also “ramped up cleaning in all of our schools,” above and beyond what they normally do.
Many parents of young children are much more interested and concerned with enterovirus than they are with Ebola. Doctors are encouraging parents to keep things in perspective and remember that enterovirus symptoms are usually mild, typically not even as bad as the flu. Children with asthma appear to be most at risk. Health officials say the most important sign parents should be alert for is difficulty breathing.
A Facebook page known as “Team Maddie,” devoted to Madeline Reid’s illness, received an outpouring of online condolences. Chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital of Michigan Rudolph Valentini also expressed sympathy for the family’s loss.
By Beth A. Balen