Flu complications eyed as cause of girl's death

RYAN HUTTON/ Staff file photoA first-grade student at Haverhill's Golden Hill Elementary School has died after being diagnosed with the flu.

Ryan Hutton

Editor's note: Some print versions of this story misidentified the school the girl attended. She attended Golden Hill Elementary. 

HAVERHILL — Complications from the flu are believed to have led to the death of a girl who attended Golden Hill Elementary School, according to the city's health nurse.

Haverhill Community Health Coordinator Mary Connolly told The Eagle-Tribune that the girl, whom school officials identified as first-grade student Delilah Lovelace, tested positive for influenza A. She said the 6-year-old girl is believed to have died from influenza-related complications. She had been taken to taken to Holy Family Hospital-Haverhill.

Connolly said the exact cause of death is pending an autopsy by the medical examiner's office. 

"Everybody is encouraged to get the flu vaccine this season, even though the vaccine is not 100 percent effective," she said. "People who receive the flu vaccine tend to recover from the flu quicker." 

She noted that on Monday evening, Golden Hill underwent a "deep cleaning" that is effective against the flu virus.

"The bus she rode in was cleaned as well," Connolly said about the girl. "I do believe the school took the appropriate measures to ensure the safety of students."

School Superintendent James Scully said that all Haverhill public schools were given a thorough cleaning several weeks ago in response to reports of flu-like symptoms. He said Golden Hill was cleaned again on Monday evening, as an added precautionary measure.

"We are aggressively cleaning schools and we have been doing this for the past few weeks, given the outbreak of the flu," Scully said. "I sent a directive out to principals to make sure we step up the cleaning of our buildings, and we'll intensify it next week when the children aren't in the buildings."

About six children at Golden Hill took advantage of grief counseling services that were offered to them and to staff on Tuesday, school officials said.

Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said the district attorney's office was notified of the girl's death on Monday and is investigating. She said her office conducts investigations into all unattended and unexpected deaths, regardless of what the cause may turn out to be. Kimball-Monahan said that as the girl's death appears to have resulted from medical causes, the district attorney's office does not expect to release any further information.

Scully said he was notified Monday afternoon by police that the girl had died. He then notified Golden Hill Principal Bruce Michitson, who in turn sent an email to parents of children attending the school.

"This is deeply sad news to share with you, and there is no easy way to make sense of it," Michitson told parents, "We are all sad and our hearts go out to her family."

Michitson told parents that he is aware that the subject of death is difficult for children grasp and that many questions will come up.

"As the parent who loves and knows your child the best, we defer to your judgment in how and if you share the news with your child. We will do our best to have as normal a day as possible for our kids," Michitson said.

"We will also be acutely aware of those students who were close to her and those in her classroom to make sure we are doing our best to help when needed. Again, it is with a heavy heart that I share such sad news with you. Our prayers and thoughts are with the family."

Flu shots are available at the Citizens Center by contacting Mary Connolly, RN, at 978-374-2390, ext. 15.

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