A 4-year-old Bondad boy who experienced respiratory problems died suddenly Thursday evening at Mercy Regional Medical Center.
The exact cause of death was unknown.
The hospital tested the boy for the flu, but test results were negative, said Joe Fowler, epidemiologist for the San Juan Basin Health Department.
"We do not believe that this was an influenza death," he said.
But as an added precaution, health officials sent a swab sample to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment laboratory for a confirmation of the negative test result, Fowler said.
Earlier this week, the boy visited family and friends in Arizona, said Jann Smith, chief deputy coroner in La Plata County. He started feeling sick with a fever and cough, so his parents brought him home, she said.
The boy was admitted to the hospital at 5:40 p.m. Thursday with flu-like symptoms and died shortly before 7 p.m., Smith said.
While in the hospital, the boy went into respiratory distress, then respiratory failure, which led to cardiac arrest.
"They worked on him for a couple of hours but couldn't bring him back," Smith said. "They really don't know why this little boy died other than he had these flu-like symptoms."
An autopsy is planned for Monday. The boy's body is being kept at Hood Mortuary.
Fowler said the state has tested one other individual for the flu in Southwest Colorado, but the test results were negative.
San Juan Basin Health is not monitoring the boy's family members for the flu, Fowler said.
"There is just nothing about this death that makes us think we need to be watching them," he said. "We've discussed this whole case with state health-care officials.
"We are certainly sad for the family and want to express our condolences for them," Fowler said. "He was apparently a very compelling child, and everybody who knew him is heartbroken over this."
Patients who enter Mercy with flu-like symptoms are given masks to prevent the spread of germs, said Guy Walton, the infection control nurse.
The hospital is equipped with respiratory equipment and ventilators in the event that they're needed, he said. There are even some rooms that have negative air pressure, meaning air is pumped outside instead of circulating through the main air system.
Many precautions in place are the same that were set up during the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak and the bird flu outbreak in China.