Flu Outbreak: New Jersey Public School Student Dies After Influenza Diagnosis

Flu shot
Health officials in New Jersey are urging people to get their flu vaccination as the state battles its highest number of flu cases in 15 years Justin Sullivan/Getty

A student at a public school in New Jersey has died after contracting the flu, a school board official said late Sunday.

Health officials have confirmed that the student was diagnosed with influenza, but they have yet to determine whether the virus was directly responsible for the student's death.

If so, the student will be the third pediatric flu victim to die in New Jersey this season.

Flu shot
Health officials in New Jersey are urging people to get their flu vaccination as the state battles its highest number of flu cases in 15 years Justin Sullivan/Getty

In a letter to parents and guardians, Elizabeth Public Schools Supt. Olga Hugelmeyer wrote on Sunday evening: "It is with great sadness that I must report to you that the Elizabeth School District has lost one of its own."

"I offer our thoughts, condolences and prayers to the family of our student at this heart-wrenching time," she added.

It comes just a week after state officials had confirmed that a second child had died of flu, with friends and family identifying the victim as 6-year-old Nevaeh Hernandez of North Bergen. Hernandez had been vaccinated for the flu, her family had told local media.

Another child from the Central Jersey area had died from the virus in December.

New Jersey has seen its highest number of flu cases in 15 years, with more than 4,000 cases reported between February 3 and February 10 alone.

Hugelmeyer warned that the flu virus "has been widespread this winter season and poses a serious health risk, making it very important that everyone take appropriate precautions."

The New Jersey Department of Health has said it is not too late for students to get vaccinated if they haven't already. All people 6 months and older are advised to get the influenza vaccine.

It recently emerged that at least three-quarters of the children who have died from the flu this season were not vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC said as many as 84 children have died of the flu since the season began in the fall.

The New Jersey Health Department department also urged parents to keep students who are sick at home, especially if they have a fever. They should not return to school until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.

Read more: Most of the children killed by flu this season were not vaccinated

Symptoms associated with the flu can include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, sudden onset of fevers, chills, severe body aches, headache, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

Elizabeth Public Schools says it is taking extra precautions this season, asking students with a fever over 100 F to stay home from school until they have been symptom-free for 48 hours without a fever-reducing medication.

Hugelmeyer said the school board has also made additional efforts to ensure its schools "have been cleaned in a more aggressive manner these past couple of months, including all 'touch points'," such as door knobs, railings and desks.

She added that grief counseling would be available for students and others affected by the recent death.