Health

Student dies after influenza diagnosis, school says

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An Elizabeth Public Schools student died after being diagnosed with influenza, though district officials said Sunday they were unsure if the virus was the primary cause of the death.

The child’s death comes amid a surge in flu cases this year, including a 4-year-old in Central Jersey who died in December and a 6-year-old from Hudson County who died last week.

In Union County, there have been slightly more than 700 new cases of the flu so far this year, according to state Department of Health data.

Elizabeth schools spokesman Pat Politano said the district has not seen a spike in absences or anything else to indicate the flu has a strong presence in the district. There were 35 possible cases of flu through the end of January last year. This year, for the same period, there were 16, he said.

The child’s death is under investigation by the state’s Department of Health.

Due to the investigation and health privacy laws, Politano said he could not confirm the child’s name, age, or exact school he or she attended.

“While it has been confirmed that the student had been diagnosed with influenza, it presently remains unclear whether or not the virus was the primary contributing factor to the child’s passing,” Superintendent Olga Hugelmeyer said in a letter to parents and guardians.

Hugelmeyer said the district will not allow students to stay in school if they have a fever of over 100 degrees or have not gone at least 48 hours without a fever while not taking medication.

The district also always takes certain precautions, Hugelmeyer said in her letter, including aggressively cleaning door knobs, railings and desks.

“… I offer our thoughts, condolences, and prayers to the family of our student at this heart-wrenching time,” Hugelmeyer said.

Grief counselors will be available to students and staff members on Tuesday, Hugelmeyer said.

Health officials could not be immediately reached for comment Sunday night.

Sara Jerde may be reached at sjerde@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SaraJerde.

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