Haver­hill 6-year-old girl dies from in­fluenza


HAVER­HILL — The flu has claimed the life of a 6-year-old Haver­hill el­e­men­tary school­girl — the first child to die in Mas­sachusetts of this year’s vir­u­lent strain — send­ing this tight-knit Mer­ri­mack Val­ley com­mu­nity into mourn­ing.

The girl, iden­ti­fied as Delilah Lovelace, a first­grader at Golden Hill El­e­men­tary School, died Mon­day. The state Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health con­firmed the girl died of in­fluenza, cit­ing clin­i­cal test re­sults and symp­toms.

“This is just a very sad tragedy,” said Haver­hill Pub­lic School Com­mit­tee mem­ber Scott Wood Jr. “There are not too many words that can be said to make some­thing like this bet­ter. This is a young girl with her en­tire life ahead of her. This is a city, but it’s re­ally a small town. There’s just a sad­ness hang­ing over the city right now. There’s shock and sad­ness.”

Wood said the district’s emer­gency pro­to­col sys­tem was ini­ti­ated af­ter Lovelace died. Grief coun­selors were made avail­able for stu­dents and par­ents to speak with, and the school was thor­oughly san­i­tized twice, he said.

It’s been an ex­cep­tion­ally deadly flu sea­son this win­ter. Na­tion­wide, at least 63 chil­dren had died from the flu as of Feb. 3, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

Be­tween 250 and 1,100 Mas­sachusetts res­i­dents die from com­pli­ca­tions of the flu each year — in­clud­ing two pe­di­atric deaths last year — ac­cord­ing to the DPH.

So far this in­fluenza sea­son, some 8,100 lab­con­firmed cases have been re­ported in Mas­sachusetts, said DPH.

A 68-year-old Swamp­scott mu­sic teacher died from com­pli­ca­tions of the flu ear­lier this year.

“This is a tragic re­minder of how se­ri­ous the flu can be for some peo­ple,’’ Pub­lic Health Com­mis­sioner Mon­ica Bharel said in a state­ment an­nounc­ing the Haver­hill death. “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.’’

DPH urged Bay Staters to get flu shots if they haven’t al­ready and to con­tact their doc­tors if they think they have the flu.

A spokes­woman for the Es­sex District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice told the Her­ald it in­ves­ti­gated the death of a 6-year-old girl in Haver­hill Mon­day morn­ing. The of­fice ruled out foul play and the death ap­peared to be med­i­cal in na­ture, the spokes­woman said. It’s the only child­hood death in the age range the of­fice has re­sponded to, she added.

The Lovelace fam­ily last night re­quested pri­vacy.

The Her­ald re­ported last week that the to­tal na­tion­wide flu num­bers are nearly as bad as the 2009 swine flu pan­demic. One out of ev­ery 13 vis­its to the doc­tor in the United States last week — or 7.6 per­cent — was for flu symp­toms.

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