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Waterbury teacher dies from flu-related illness

A total of 8 new deaths were recently reported. That brings total deaths to 40 for the season
Credit: FOX61

HARTFORD, Conn — HARTFORD  – The Department of Public Health released new information Thursday, saying that there were eight more flu-related deaths last week.

Waterbury Public Schools confirmed with FOX61 that one of their teachers, identified as Harley Gaafar, had died of a flu-related illness. The school learned of her death on Tuesday through her family. 

Gaafar taught English as a second language at West Side Middle School.

According to the Waterbury Islamic Cultural Center, Gaafar was 28.

Waterbury Schools released a statement on Gaafar's death: 

"Superintendent Ruffin and the staff were deeply saddened to learn of Ms. Gaafar's passing. On Wednesday, grief counselors and social workers were made available for students, as well as staff. Our thoughts are with her family and friends during this very difficult time. She was highly beloved by all and will be missed." 

This brings the total number of flu-related deaths to 40 people this season.  The DPH also reported that there were 339 flu-related hospitalizations last week.

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It is recommended the people 65 years and older get a flu shot instead of a nasal spray vaccine. The nasal spray vaccine is only approved for use in non-pregnant individuals between the ages of 2-49 and is not effective for anyone over the age of 50. They can get any flu vaccine approved for use in that age group with no preference for any one vaccine over another.

There are regular flu shots that are approved for use in people 65 years and older and there also are two vaccines designed specifically for people 65 years and older. 

To get vaccinated for the flu check with your regular heath care provider or pharmacy to see if they have the flu vaccine available. To find a flu clinic near you, visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder by clicking here.

For more information on influenza and vaccination, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

DPH posts a weekly flu update on the Influenza Surveillance and Statistics webpage.