HAMILTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Tests were pending Monday for a possible enterovirus D68 infection in Hamilton, New Jersey, days after the death of a 4-year-old boy from the virus.

Eli Waller, who attended Yardville Elementary School, died in his sleep at home on Sept. 25.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Friday that enterovirus D68 claimed Eli’s life. It’s still not clear how the preschooler contracted enterovirus D68, but the death is believed to be the first linked to the virus.

EXTRA: Enterovirus D68: What Every Parent Should Know | More Info From The CDC

On Sunday, health officials answered questions from parents in a high school auditorium.

“It’s very saddening and I just want to know if there is a risk of it spreading, maybe spreading amongst the community,” said parent Stacy Jensen.

“Everyone is worried for their children and so we want to know exactly what procedures they’re putting in place,” said parent Rebecca Joseph.

As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, enterovirus D68 resembles the flu, but is much more dangerous. And on Monday afternoon, another mother at the Yardville Elementary School as waiting to find out if her son, who has been sick for three weeks, might also have the virus.

“It was scary,” said parent Tabatha Vassey. “I hate seeing my son sick, and I was trying to figure out — dear God, how can I take this from him and let me deal with it myself?”

Vassey said her 4-year-old son, who has been hospitalized and released, came down with flulike symptoms on Sept. 19 – days before Eli died. She said her son, whose name will not be released, got sick at his father’s house.

“(I) get a call on Sunday morning saying: ‘He’s having trouble breathing. We need to go to the ER, like now. He’s wheezing really badly; it sounds like a freight train.’” Vassey said.

She said her local emergency room transferred the boy to another hospital.

“They sent us home with a diagnosis of asthma,” Vassey said. “My son has no a condition of asthma.”

Vassey has been keeping a close eye her son since she was released from the hospital.

“I have an alarm that goes off every hour, two hours, to check on him — even if it’s not time for medicine, just to check. Don’t wake him; just up give him a nudge to see if he responds back to it,” she said.

Ironically, Vassey’s son was best friends last year with Eli. But she said the two had not seen each other this year, even though they shared a classroom at different hours of the day.

“Right now, he is complaining that he was still wheezing; shortness of breath, but it’s getting better,” Vassey said. “But we have a long way to go.”

While one of the boys attended school in the morning and the other in the afternoon, Hamilton health officer Jeff Plunkett told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond the enterovirus persists on surfaces like cold and flu virus.

“The surface life of the virus is a few hours up to a day,” Plunkett said.

Still, Plunkett said it was unlikely that surface contact was to blame for the possible transmission of the virus.

“It’s possible surface contact, but I think that’s remote how the teachers and the custodial staff handle that classroom and that school, but nothing has been eliminated,” he said.

School officials have disinfected the Yardville Elementary School classrooms, water fountains, and even buses.

“We have procedures in place to make sure kids wash their hands before lunch; after lunch,” said Hamilton school Supt. James Parla.

Health officials noted that the symptoms of the enterovirus are like those of the flu, but children with underlying respiratory conditions are at higher risk. They said if your child has problems breathing, he or she needs to be taken to the emergency room.

“It attacks little ones with compromised immune symptoms because they have immunity course of their short lives,” Plunkett said.

“I have a son who is extreme asthmatic, and my concern is he can get it anywhere,” said parent Virginia Loughran. “He can get it, you know, in his sports that he is in.”

Vassey also advised that parents take no chances.

“You know your child best,” she said. “If you think that their cold is getting worse, or they’re having trouble breathing, don’t question it.”

Meanwhile, deceased enterovirus patient Eli’s father, Andy Waller, issued a statement thanking the community in Hamilton Township for their support and help. He and his wife are establishing The First Day of School Foundation, which will support special education students.

“Like so many kids his age, Eli was both nervous and excited about starting school and it is our sincere hope that this foundation can work to help kids in a way that will make Eli proud of us all, in the same way that we were all so proud of him,” his father said in the statement.

The virus has sickened more than 500 people in 43 states and Washington, D.C., almost all of them children. There have been nine cases reported in New Jersey.

The results on Vassey’s child should be in this week. A local congressman is having the tests fast-tracked so that parents can get some answers.

Parents Advised To Maintain Hygiene, Watch For Signs

As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, experts have advised parents to take precautions to prevent the transmission of the virus. And on Long Island Monday, parents were flooding pediatricians’ offices with questions on how to do so.

When baby Shayne Sitzman had a cough, his father was taking no chances.

“You want to keep them safe, and that’s why we are here,” said Shayne’s father, Todd Sitzman.

Pediatrician Dr. John Zaso said Sitzman’s caution was prudent.

“It’s a cold that the child has, and then rapidly, within hours sometimes – you know, shortly progresses to severe respiratory distress,” Zaso said. “So that different from a regular cold.”

The message to parents was to enforce common-sense hygiene.

At Washington Rose Elementary in Roosevelt, Long Island, the message was being reinforced. Children were taught to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, not to touch their faces to unwashed hands, not to share cups or eating utensils, and to cover their coughs with their hands.

“If you are feeling ill… you go to the nurse,” said Washington Rose Elementary School principal Clyde Braswell.

Staff at Washington Rose has been disinfecting surfaces, and parents have been told children who are sick are to be kept home.

Health Departments on Long Island have confirmed 10 cases of Enterovirus D68, but the medical director of Cohen Children’s Medical Center said there are far more – and all of the children have recovered.

“We probably had about triple the number of admissions that we normally have in September; triple the number of children that required intensive care – but again, not in a particularly life-threatening situation,” said hospital medical director Dr. Andrew Steele.

As an extra measure of safety, throughout the North Shore-LIJ Health System, children under 14 are barred from visiting. But doctors said they expect that restriction to be lifted soon because the number of cases is on the decline.

The virus has sickened more than 500 people in 43 states and Washington, D.C., almost all of them children. There have been nine cases reported in New Jersey.

The virus is spread through contact with an infected person or via contaminated surfaces.

And while some children are especially vulnerable to infection because of pre-existing conditions, though the local medical examiner said that was not the case in Eli’s death. As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported, Eli went to bed with a case of pink eye and died in his sleep.

“The idea that a very rapidly progressive death in one’s sleep is surprising, but not completely unanticipated,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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.

For more information on specific fundraising events for First Day of School Foundation, email firstdayofschoolfoundation@gmail.com.

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