January 18, 2013 at 7:41 PM
WESTFIELD, NJ—The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has confirmed that Westfield High School Freshman Mark Hollaway’s death Wednesday was related to the flu. Hollaway had not gotten the flu vaccine, but had no underlying medical issues and those who knew him had expected him to recover.
This flu season has been described as earlier and more severe than usual.
“In an average flu season, thousands of people die. In a bad flu season, tens of thousands of people die,” Megan Avallone, health officer for the the Westfield Regional Health Department, told TAP.
“It is important for individuals to understand that the flu is always serious,” Avallone said. “If you think you’re sick with the flu, you should at least contact your doctor. There are antivirals available and these are most effective within the 48 hours of symptoms beginning.”
A statement on the Town of Westfield’s homepage, WestfieldNJ.gov. reads, “While a severe case of the flu can be life-threatening, please be assured that this was an isolated case. The Westfield Board of Health, in conjunction with the school district’s nursing staff and superintendent of schools, is carefully monitoring school attendance for any signs of increased absenteeism due to the flu. At this time, there is no increase in absenteeism that would suggest a high flu activity in the schools. Please be assured that the schools are taking appropriate preventative measures such as washing surfaces with special soap, providing hand sanitizers throughout the school facilities, and teaching the students to wash their hands frequently, sneeze and cough into a tissue or sleeve, and not to share food or drinks.”
Flu vaccinations are not mandatory for students attending Westfield High School, though students exhibiting symptoms are required to stay home.