‘SHOCK AND SADNESS’
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.