An infant from Cook County died from the coronavirus, Illinois health officials said Saturday, marking the first infant death from the virus in the United States.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said up until this point, there had not been a death associated with the new coronavirus in an infant, and she continued to urge people to do all they can to prevent the spread of the virus.
The infant had a bowel blockage and organ failure, and died four weeks after being hospitalized, health officials said.
"Upon hearing it (the news) I admit, I was immediately shaken and it is appropriate for any of us to grieve today," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at the news conference Saturday. "It is especially sorrowful for the family of this very small child, for the years stolen from this infant, we should grieve."
Children have made up a small fraction of coronavirus cases worldwide. A letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Chinese researchers earlier this month reported the death of a 10-month-old with COVID-19.
“If you haven’t been paying attention, maybe this is your wake-up call,” Ezike said.
The risk of death and severe illness from COVID-19 is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. In most cases, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization.
Separate research published in the journal Pediatrics traced 2,100 infected children in China and noted one death, a 14-year old. The study found less than 6% of children were seriously ill.
"A full investigation is underway to determine the cause of death,” Dr. Ezike said in a news release. “We must do everything we can to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. If not to protect ourselves, but to protect those around us.”
The deaths announced Saturday in Illinois also included an employee with the Illinois Department of Human Services.
An additional 465 coronavirus cases were reported at the daily briefing Saturday, bringing the state total to 3,491 with 47 deaths.