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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The 10-year-old Rhode Island girl who died from complications of an unusual respiratory virus affecting children across the U.S. was remembered in a family obituary as a sweet child who loved animals and Harry Potter.
The state Health Department said Wednesday the girl from Cumberland died last week of a staph infection associated with enterovirus 68, which it called "a very rare combination." It's unclear what role the virus played in the death, Health Director Michael Fine said.
Her hometown paper, The Valley Breeze, identified her as Emily Otrando, a fifth-grader.
The obituary says Emily loved all animals, especially horses and dolphins, and was a voracious reader. She wanted to grow her hair long to look like her favorite Harry Potter character, Luna Lovegood.
Fine said she was taken to Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence when her parents noticed she was having trouble breathing and called 911.
He said the situation quickly "became dire" and she died within 24 hours of arriving at the hospital. He said she did not have any previous infections or an underlying disease.
Cumberland Schools Superintendent Philip Thornton said in an email to the school community Wednesday that school leaders were "misinformed" by the Health Department when they told last week in "straight and clear terms" that their student did not have the enterovirus.
Health Department spokeswoman Christina Batastini said health officials would not have told the school that because they did not have the test results until this week.
Emily attended Community School and was a Girl Scout, according to the obituary. She loved to write stories and go to the beach with her family. She had a dog, Lola, and a fish, Rainbeau, but she always asked for a new pet on trips to the pet store with Grammy.
"Emily was a sweet, loving, beautiful child who found joy in life and nature," the obituary said.
The virus was also found in three other patients who died in September, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC declined to release any other details about those deaths.
The government says enterovirus 68 has sickened at least 500 people in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Almost all have been children.
The virus can cause mild to severe illness. The strain isn't new but it's rarely seen.
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