Enterovirus D68 is a rare viral infection whose symptoms are similar to a common cold: a cough, runny nose, a low-grade fever. But while a cold is innocuous, since September, five children have died after being infected with enterovirus D68. Andrew Waller, the father of one of those children, joined HuffPost Live on Thursday to talk about his tragic experience with the virus.
Four-year-old Eli Waller died overnight after contracting the virus. It was a total shock for the family, since Eli had not displayed any symptoms of the virus beforehand.
"The day before, that Wednesday, he appeared to be fine," Waller told host Ricky Camilleri. "He didn't really have any fever, he didn't show any overt signs of being sick. He'd been outside during the day [so] he was pretty tired, as a kid would probably normally be after running around outside all day."
Waller continued, "We do a little thing where I kiss them all goodnight and have a routine that we do, and I kissed him right on the forehead, and he really did feel fine. He told me he was ready to have a great day the next day, and he didn't wake up."
Enterovirus D68 has been present in the U.S. since 1962, and can cause respiratory problems and low blood-oxygen levels. According to Mark Pallansch, the director of Viral Diseases at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who also joined the conversation, the virus affects children disproportionately to adults because they haven't yet built up any protection to it.
Pallansch added that predicting the re-occurrence of viruses is hard.
"I've been studying these viruses for more than 30 years and there is not a specific pattern to when they occur, when they return, so that is very difficult to predict what is going to happen any given year," he said.
Waller acknowledged that Eli's death was extremely unlikely.
"I think this is a very rare case," he said. "I don't imagine that the risk of real serious harm coming from this virus gets anywhere near the same level of risk as you get getting in your car and driving to school."
"Nothing is perfect, nothing is perfectly safe, there are really no guarantees," he added. "You've got to live your life in a way that is reasonable, that's going to be livable and that you can enjoy it. It doesn't make a lot of sense to be overly afraid of things that you know — I think we're really talking about rare cases here."
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