Norwalk’s Columbus Magnet School was closed Monday for President’s Day. The school district is now using the day to disinfect the building after a 6 year-old student named Emma Splan died of the flu.
This has been a particularly rough flu season with around 80 deaths here in Connecticut. Most of those were senior citizens. Older immune systems often succumb to the flu. Healthy young people dying, however, is unusual.
“Sometimes it’s the virus infection itself that can become so severe in a person that it can result in death,” said Dr. Alicia Fry of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Influenza Prevention and Control Team. “The flu viruses weakens your immune system and you can get a bacterial infection on top of it.”
The state department of public health announced last week that emergency room visits were up to the highest level since the flu pandemic of 2009.
Related: Flu deaths in Connecticut rise to 77
Experts urge everyone to get a flu shot. This year’s vaccine is proving more effective than first thought. Even if it does not prevent the flu, it lessens the symptoms.
News8 spoke to Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling on the phone. He says he never met Emma, but he does know members of her family. They are, of course, devastated by her death, and never expected that the flu could kill a healthy little girl.
Emma is the second child from Connecticut to die of the flu this year. You may remember 10-year-old Nico Mallozzi of New Canaan died 5 weeks earlier. He had gone to play in a hockey tournament in New York and never made it home.
The New Haven Register reports the Columbus School’s principal put out a statement to parents saying they “could always count on Emma constantly doing the right thing at school and thriving.”
When students return to school Tuesday, there will be grief counselors available.
Experts say this year’s flu is affecting children more than usual. If your child is having trouble breathing, or breathing too fast, has bluish skin color or is unusually irritable, get him or her to a doctor.
“As soon as they have symptoms and they suspect they might have the flu, they should call their doctor right away,” Dr. Fry said. “Because they could benefit from early treatment with antiviral drugs.”
According to the latest numbers from the State Health Department, there have been almost 5,000 people with laboratory-confirmed flu this season. More than 1,600 have been hospitalized.