Haverhill, Massachusetts held an emergency clinic offering free flu shots Wednesday following the death of a 6-year-old girl.
The state’s department of public health announced late Tuesday afternoon the first influenza-associated death of a child in Massachusetts this season that had been confirmed by clinical tests and the symptoms shown.
Delilah Lovelace was a first grade student at Golden Hill Elementary. Lovelace was remembered in her obituary as a tom boy in a princess dress, someone who enjoyed pretending to be a fairy and dreamed of one day being a mermaid.
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While the elementary school has been disinfected and grief counselors will be available all week, many parents are still wondering how they can protect their own children from the deadly flu.
"That makes me a nervous wreck because I don't want anything to happen to my kids," said Haverhill parent Donna Lampe.
The school district sent a letter home to parents, outlining steps parents and students can take to protect themselves, saying, "get a flu shot, it's not too late."
"Usually we get the flu shot. This was the first year I didn't get it and I actually did get the flu," said Haverhill parent Andrew Murray.
School officials are taking precautions to prevent other cases, with the the superintendent of the district saying they were going to "throroughly clean and sanitize" all schools as a precaution.
All of the schools in Haverhill will be disinfected over the February winter break.
"I hope we can all join together and keep this beautiful young lady and her family in our thoughts and prayers," James Scully, Haverhill superintendent, said in a statement.
The calling hours for Lovelace are on Friday.
As of Feb. 3, 63 children nationwide had died from the flu this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This is a tragic reminder of how serious the flu can be for some people," DPH 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."
The DPH says there have been more than 8,000 confirmed cases of the flu in Massachusetts so far this year, in what's been a particularly severe season. Officials say 250 to 1,100 people die from complications of the flu in the state every year.
Dr. Alfred Demaria with Mass. DPH said officials don't know why the flu is so bad this year, but they are focused on spreading the word about how to reduce the risk of spreading the virus by reminding people to cough into their sleeve and avoid going to work or school if they're sick.
The department is urging people to get flu shots and to seek treatment if they think they have the flu.
Common symptoms of influenza include fevers, coughs, sore throats, body aches, headaches, chills and runny noses, the DPH noted.
For those who could not attend Haverhill's emergency clinic at the Citizen’s Center Wednesday but are still interested in receiving the Influenza vaccine, you can do so by calling the city’s Community Health Coordinator, Mary Connolly, at 978-374-2309 x15.