More than a quarter of kindergarteners at one New Jersey school stayed home Tuesday, a day after a classmate became the second child in the Garden State to die from influenza.
Officials at Lincoln Elementary School in North Bergen said Neveah Hernandez died over the weekend, just three days after attending class on Friday without apparent signs of illness. Family friends said the 6-year-old developed a high fever over the weekend was rushed to the hospital, where she died.
"The girl was loved and she's an angel," said Angelina Vavosa. "And she's gone from the flu."
Health officials, while not naming Hernandez, said the diagnosis was confirmed by hospital testing. It wasn't clear if she was vaccinated.
Friends said that the girl's grandparents are both emergency medical technicians and her mother was studying to be a nurse. Her father is stationed at an Army base in Germany and flew home to say goodbye to his only child.
The school, meanwhile, said grief counselors were on hand Tuesday for students and teachers.
The Departments of Health and Education continue to recommend that people take the necessary precautions during this flu season: wash or disinfect your hands frequently, cover any coughs and sneezes, stay home and call your health care provider if you are sick (especially with a fever) and get a flu shot.
“While effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year, in most people it still provides protection against the flu or severe symptoms if you do get the flu. Flu season can last until May,” Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said in a statement.
This year’s flu season is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic back in 2009. In New York City, health officials confirmed the fourth pediatric flu-related death this week. At least one Connecticut child has also died.
Last flu season, there were six flu-related child deaths in New York City, and 106 nationwide. Since 2004, anywhere from zero to eight pediatric flu deaths have been reported to the city's health department.
With two months left of the 2017-18 season, health officials warn anyone who may be affected to seek medical care as soon as possible, particularly people with compromised immune systems, children, pregnant women and elderly people.