Metro

Haverhill officials confirm first-grader died from the flu

Haverhill school officials reminded parents that free flu vaccines are available for children.
Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/File 2015
Haverhill school officials reminded parents that free flu vaccines are available for children.

Haverhill school officials confirmed that a local first-grader who died from influenza was the state’s first flu-related pediatric death of the year.

Superintendent James F. Scully said the child was a student at Golden Hill Elementary School and said additional counseling staff were assigned to the school Tuesday morning and would be on call throughout the rest of the week.

“The Haverhill Public Schools’ community continues to offer its support and assistance to Golden Hill School students, parents and staff as they cope with the tragic passing of a first grader,” Scully said in a prepared statement. “Please continue to keep this beautiful child and her family in your thoughts and prayers.”

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In a separate letter to parents, Scully said steps are being taken to make sure each school is “well scrubbed” and “has been cleaned in a more aggressive manner these past few weeks.”

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Scully also reminded parents that free flu vaccines are available for children.

“Our Haverhill public health nurse, Mary Connolly, would also like us to relay that it is not too late to get the flu vaccine,” he wrote.

Parents were also told that sick children should stay home until they are no longer contagious, and the following precautions should be taken to prevent the spread of germs:

 Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

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 Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.

 Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth because germs spread this way. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.”

Scully also recommended Haverhill parents look at the CDC’s flu guide: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/family/flu-guide-for-parents-2017.pdf

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health estimates between 250 and 1,100 Massachusetts residents die annually from complications of influenza.

There were two flu-related pediatric deaths in Massachusetts during the 2016-2017 flu season. In 2012-2013, there were five; in 2011-2012, there were none.

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As of Feb. 3, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there have been 63 flu-associated pediatric deaths nationwide.

“This is a tragic reminder of how serious the flu can be for some people,’’ state Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said in a statement. “Every flu season is different, but every flu season is bad. This one arrived early and continues to spread, leading many people throughout the Commonwealth to get sick.’’

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney. Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@ globe.com.