WASHINGTON (AFP) - A child in the northeastern US state of Rhode Island has died from a rare combination of an emerging respiratory virus and a staph infection, officials said on Wednesday.
It is believed to be the first death of a child in the United States due to the latest outbreak of enterovirus D68, a severe respiratory infection that has affected more than 470 kids across the United States since August.
"Infection by both Staphylococcus aureus sepsis and EV-D68 is a very rare combination that can cause very severe illness in children and adults," the Rhode Island Department of Health said in a statement.
Enterovirus D68 typically causes flu-like symptoms, but in some cases it can cause wheezing and breathing problems that may require hospitalisation. A spike in cases nationwide has grabbed the attention of parents and doctors, with EV-D68 cases now documented in 472 people, most of them children, in 41 states, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Concerns have also mounted over the emergence of nine cases in Colorado where children had respiratory infections that were followed by acute neurologic illness, including sudden limb weakness. Experts are investigating whether there may be a link between the enterovirus outbreak and the paralysis cases.
There is no vaccine to prevent EV-D68, and frequent hand-washing is the best way to prevent it, experts say.
"We are all heartbroken to hear about the death of one of Rhode Island's children," said Michael Fine, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "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."