A child infected with enterovirus 68 has died, the Rhode Island Department of Health said Wednesday, marking the first publicly announced enterovirus 68 death since the outbreak began this summer.
After the Rhode Island announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that four patients who died later tested positive for the virus that's infecting children across the country. It is not clear what role the virus played in these deaths, but the CDC said state and local health officials are investigating.
The 10-year-old girl from Cumberland, Rhode Island, died last week of a rare combination of bacterial and viral infections, the department said, explaining that she died of Staphylococcus aureus sepsis "associated with" enterovirus 68.
"We are all heartbroken to hear about the death of one of Rhode Island's children," state Health Department Director Dr. Michael Fine said in a statement. "Many of us will have EV-D68 [enterovirus 68]. Most of us will have very mild symptoms and all but very few will recover quickly and completely."
Enterovirus 68, which is suspected of sickening children in 46 states, starts out like the common cold but can quickly turn serious and send children to the hospital with breathing problems. And on Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was investigating whether the virus led to temporary limb paralysis in nine children in Colorado. It is related to the polio virus.
The girl's illness began with cold-like symptoms and shortness of breath, Fine said during a press conference today. Her parents called 911 last week, but after she arrived at the hospital her condition "deteriorated very quickly."
"Things became dire," Fine said.
She died of Staphylococcus aureus sepsis, which he said was "associated with" her enterovirus 68 infection. Staphylococcus aureus is a bacteria that lives in about 30 percent of people's noses and usually doesn't cause any problems, according to the CDC. It can be serious or fatal when it results in sepsis, which is body-wide inflammation that results from an infection, according to the CDC. Sepsis can cause blood flow problems, which leads to organ failure.