A 4-year-old New Jersey boy who died after contracting enterovirus-68 had no symptoms other than pinkeye when his mom put him to sleep on the night of Sept. 24; by the time she went in the next morning to wake him up, he had died, Bloomberg reports. Eli Waller stayed home from school on the 24th because of the pinkeye, but had attended school earlier in the week. And unlike other children hard-hit by the virus, Eli was not asthmatic. He was "a beautiful mix of eagerness and hesitancy, need and striving, caution and surprise, all of which were grounded in a pure, unconditional love," his father tells ABC News.
Born last in a birthing of triplets, Eli came out "smaller and lighter" than his two sisters but didn't let that hold him back, his dad says: "Eli was not the type to give up, and even though things never really came easily to him, he would just plug away, day after day." Enterovirus-68 has struck at least 43 states, hospitalizing hundreds of children, paralyzing others, and apparently playing a role in at least four US deaths. On the brighter side, the enterovirus season should subside later this fall—but with the rare 68 strain dominating, experts say it's smart to follow basic hygiene practices like covering coughs, staying home when unwell, and washing hands in warm water. (Meanwhile, the CDC is trying to confirm links between EV-68 and cases of paralysis.)