Burlington Township student dies of flu complications

Posted: January 25, 2011

A young Burlington Township student died over the weekend of complications from the flu, school district officials said Monday.

The student, who attended B. Bernice Young Elementary School, was infected with influenza B, a strain unrelated to the H1N1 virus, officials said. The child felt ill during an after-school program Thursday and died Saturday.

"Our school district extends our deepest sympathy to the family, along with thoughts and prayers for peace and comfort," Superintendent Christopher Manno said in an open letter to district families dated Sunday.

The district released no details about the student except that the child had received a flu shot during the academic year. School officials did not know whether the child had had any medical conditions, district spokeswoman Liz Scott said Monday.

In light of the death, the county Health Department announced Monday it would hold an additional flu-vaccination clinic on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Burlington Center Mall.

The child's death was the second flu-related fatality reported in New Jersey this season, said Donna Leusner, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Senior Services. An 80-year-old man died Jan. 12 in a Hunterdon County acute-care facility, Leusner said.

On average, tens of thousands of people die each year from seasonal flu in the United States. The number varies dramatically from year to year and place to place.

Many deaths are due to conditions that were worsened by the flu, meaning that influenza may not be noted on death certificates. As a result, estimates of flu-related fatalities are determined by complex models rather than laboratory-confirmed cases.

Eleven flu deaths have been reported in Pennsylvania so far this season, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health said on Monday. A 32-year-old Upper Merion woman, a 24-year-old Norristown man, and a 2-year-old in Lower Merion died between Dec. 21 and Jan. 3.

In Burlington Township, school district officials said that the student was picked up by a parent on Thursday after an instructor at a YMCA after-school program housed at Young Elementary School found the child had a low-grade temperature.

Around 8 a.m. Friday, police and emergency personnel responded to the student's home, the district said. The child was taken to a local hospital, then to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, officials said.

The child died about 8 a.m. Saturday, the district said.

"To be cautious and proactive, the school is undergoing special cleaning," Manno said in the letter. "If your child is experiencing flulike symptoms, we suggest you consult with your family doctor."

Counselors will be available to assist those affected by the child's death, Manno said.

Contact staff writer Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or dsimon@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Don Sapatkin contributed to this article.

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