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CDC Confirms First New Jersey Death Involving Enterovirus D68

 The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tonight notified the New Jersey Department of Health that a Mercer County child who died last week tested positive for the respiratory illness enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).

"Our thoughts remain with the family at this very difficult time," said Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd. "While the child has tested positive for EV-D68, the cause of death has not yet been determined and it is unclear if EV-D68 played a direct role or was a contributing factor in his death." 

The Mercer County's child's death is the first New Jersey child death involving EV-D68. 

The CDC also notified the Department tonight of an additional confirmed case of EV-D68 in a Middlesex County child.  Including tonight's two new confirmed cases of EV-D68, the state currently has nine confirmed cases of EV-D68 in the following counties: Camden, Burlington, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris Essex, Passaic and Sussex.

Typically, EV-D68 causes upper respiratory symptoms such as cough, runny nose, sneezing and body/muscle aches and possibly low-grade fever. If children become ill, parents should consult with their health care provider.

New Jersey, like the rest of the U.S., is in the middle of the respiratory virus season.  Many different viruses are common this time of year, including influenza, rhinovirus and more than 100 other types of enteroviruses.

Commissioner O'Dowd said the virus is causing respiratory illnesses around the state-along with flu and other respiratory viruses. The preventive steps people can take to avoid becoming ill and the treatment are similar to those of most respiratory illnesses like the flu.

CDC has tested a high volume of specimens nationwide, and of the specimens tested by the CDC laboratory to date, only about half have tested positive for EV-D68.  The Department has received several tests back from the CDC that were negative for EV-D68 and we have additional test results pending. New Jersey labs cannot test specifically for EV-D68.

Good hand hygiene is your best defense against getting infected with enterovirus:

  • Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers. Hand sanitizers are not effective against entroviruses
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoiding kissing, hugging, and sharing cup or eating utensils with people who are sick
  • Disenfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick

"Enterovirus D68 is treated the same as other respiratory illnesses that are seen in children this time of year," the Commissioner said. There is no vaccine or specific antiviral medication for enterovirus infections. However, individuals should be aware of other illnesses-such as the flu-that are preventable. It's never too early to get a flu shot.

Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.

"Parents and caregivers should be aware that children with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, may experience severe complications and require hospitalization with supportive therapy," Commissioner O'Dowd said.

In the upcoming weeks, more states will have confirmed cases of EV-D68 infection. It can take a while for the CDC to test specimens and obtain lab results as EV-D68 testing can only be done by CDC and a small number of state public health laboratories. These results will help public health officials track the spread and the trends regarding EV-D68 nationwide.

The Department recognizes the importance of continued monitoring of EV-D68 in New Jersey. Now that the virus is present in the state, the Department will not test every suspect EV-D68 case since a diagnosis of EV-D68 in patients will not change clinical management or public health actions.

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Last Reviewed: 10/3/2014