Cumberland schools taking precautions after girl’s death

CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — Schools in Cumberland are taking steps to ensure students’ safety after one of their classmates died of a staph infection last week, which may have been associated with the respiratory illness enterovirus D68.

Cumberland Superintendent Philip Thornton said there hasn’t been a spike in absences recently, but students are being encouraged to wash their hands often. Doorknobs, desks, and all other surfaces at Cumberland schools are being cleaned on a daily basis, and the school buses are also being disinfected more frequently.

The fifth grader at Community School tested positive for enterovirus D68, but the Rhode Island Department of health said she died of stapholococcous auerus sepsis. Even though we’ll never know what role, if any, EV-D68 played in her death, officials believe it was an isolated incident and a rare combination of illnesses.

Pediatrician Dr. Peter Yasigian said in most children, enterovirus will look like the common cold.

“I don’t think they need to panic with every runny nose, or every cough, but they need to be keeping a closer eye,” he explained. “If they look like they’re progressing beyond the sniffly nose and the regular cough, if they look like they’re having any breathing problems, they need to take it seriously. Any time the child is showing any distress – don’t take it lightly. Don’t wait until the next morning. Contact your doctor.”

According to the health department, the 10-year-old who died had no underlying health problems.

Cumberland Police Chief John Desmarais is also the director of the town’s emergency management agency (EMA). He met with the town council and the head of the state health department last night, and said he’s working with the school district in the wake of the girl’s death.

“We’re looking at this as an isolated incident,” said Desmarais. “It’s not something you need to fear at this point.”

Bottom line, it’s important for both kids and parents to wash your hands often, avoid touching your face when possible, and of course – stay home if you’re sick.

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