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U.S. official: Enterovirus D68 caused boy’s death

WATCH: Dozens of children in Canada have the enterovirus virus and there’s a mysterious link to paralysis in some children. Robin Gill reports on what doctors know and what parents can look out for.

TRENTON, N.J. – A virus that has been causing severe respiratory illness across the U.S. is responsible for the death of a 4-year-old boy in New Jersey, a state medical examiner has determined.

Hamilton Township health officer Jeff Plunkett said the Mercer County medical examiner’s office found the death of Eli Waller was the result of enterovirus D68. The virus has sickened more than 500 people in 43 states and Washington, D.C. – almost all of them children.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this week that four people infected with the virus had died, but it’s unclear what role the virus played in the deaths.

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Some children are especially vulnerable to infection because of pre-existing conditions, though the medical examiner said that was not the case in the New Jersey boy’s death. Most of the severe cases nationwide have involved children because they generally have not been exposed to enteroviruses as often as adults have and are less likely to have developed immunity to them, officials say.

Township officials said the boy’s parents have asked for privacy.

The enterovirus germ is not new; most people who catch the virus experience only a runny nose and low-grade fever. It was first identified in 1962 and has caused clusters of illness before.

This year, the virus has gotten more attention because it has been linked to hundreds of severe illnesses. Beginning last month, hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago have received a flood of children with trouble breathing.