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Waterbury teacher among 8 CT residents who died from the flu this past week

Health

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The flu season is still going strong. Emergency rooms are not seeing a shortage of patients.

“We are seeing a very bad influenza season,” said Dr. Virginia Bieluch, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Hospital of Central Connecticut. “It is still widespread and there are still people in our hospitals, as well as in our emergency rooms, who have influenza.”

The Department of Public Health is reporting 339 flu-associated hospital visits from last week,
with over 1,700 overall patient visits this season.

“The most common way you get the flu is by inhaling droplets when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes or talks,” said Dr. Bieluch.

New flu data showed that associated deaths last week were eight, bringing the total to 40 this season.

Among the eight was Harley Gaafar, an English as a Second Language teacher at West Side Middle School in Waterbury. She was 28 and was with the district for seven years.

School officials released the following statement Thursday:

“Superintendent Verna D. Ruffin and the Waterbury Public Schools community expresses its deepest condolences to the family of Ms. Harley Gaafar…She was a beloved member of the staff.

Grief counselors and social workers have been made available to support the students and staff as they grieve.”

– Waterbury Public Schools

Services for Gaafaar will be held on Friday.

Last week, state health officials reported the first child death from influenza this season.

Dr. Bieluch told News 8 this flu season has been unusual.

“Type B was circulating early this year and it’s probably about 50/50 right now between type A and type B,” said Dr. Bieluch.

The flu vaccine may not always prevent the flu but you will likely experience a milder cause of influenza. In some cases, you may need emergency treatment.

“If you’re feeling really bad and you can’t take in enough fluids to stay hydrated because you can get dehydrated with all the sweating, you don’t feel like eating, then you should seek medical attention,” said Dr. Bieluch.

Dr. Bieluch said if you’re a caregiver wearing a mask won’t completely protect you.

“The patient was infectious about a day before symptoms started so it is really difficult to prevent household contacts from getting influenza. It is possible that if you touch a surface and you put your hand up to your mouth or your nose or your eyes, it is possible for you to get the flu that way,” she said.

So far, this season’s number of reported flu deaths have surpassed the 35 flu deaths recorded during the 2015-2016 season.

If you live in southeastern Connecticut, there’s an opportunity to get your flu shot for free on Friday. The Ledge Light Health District is administering those vaccinations in North Stonington. You can go to the Wheeler Library between 10 a.m. and noon. You must be 15-years-old or older.

For this week’s full report from the State Department of Public Health, click here.

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