Waterbury Mourns Loss of Beloved Young Teacher Due To Flu - Harley Gaafar, an ESL (English as a second language) teacher at West Side Middle School has died.
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- Health officials say eight more people have died from flu complications.
This brings the total number of flu-related deaths so far this season to 40, including a child.
Waterbury school officials confirmed to Eyewitness News on Thursday that a teacher is among those who have died from the flu.
Officials said Harley Gaafar, an ESL (English as a second language) teacher at West Side Middle School has died.
Her family said she came down with the flu last week and says she was diabetic, which complicated things.
"It was sugar, it was everything along with that, so they were trying to control a couple of things at once," said Lujan Gaafar.
The district learned about Harley's death on Tuesday.
Grief counselors have been made available for students and staff.
"The school community is devastated and deeply saddened," Waterbury school officials said.
"Someone I knew, someone I've seen before just died, like out of nowhere," said Saxon Thomas, a student.
School officials say Harley's classroom is untouched, serving as somewhat of a memorial for an inspiring teacher who made such an impact on her community and was the pride of her family.
"It takes someone passing away to see how much love and support she really did have. The amount of people who reached out to us in the last two days has been amazing," Lujan said.
Even in death, Harley's family is hoping she can still teach. They say this should be a reminder for everyone to get their flu shots, even if you're healthy.
The Waterbury Islamic Cultural Center released a statement saying, "It is with a heavy heart to report that Harley Gaafar (a young Muslim Girl who belongs to our Muslim Community of Greater Waterbury Area) passed away [Tuesday]."
The district is continuing to be vigilant in terms of cleaning and disinfecting schools.
The flu continues to be reported as widespread across the state.
A closer look at this week's flu statistics can be foundhere.
According to the latest report, 7,991 patients tested positive for influenza as of Feb. 8 and 1,705 have been hospitalized.
Health experts remind people that washing hands often is a great way to prevent the illness, in addition to getting a flu shot. They said it's not too late to get one.
To find out where to get a flu vaccine,click here.
Flu season generally runs into late March.
Anyone who gets the flu can pass it to someone at high risk of severe illness, including children younger than 6 months who are too young to get a flu vaccine.
Health officials are reminding folks about what precautions to take to try to avoid getting sick:
- Cover your cough and wash your hands afterwards
- Wash hands frequently during the day with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available
- Stay home if you are sick to avoid infecting others
- Disinfects frequently touches surfaces in your home: counter tops, doorknobs, faucets
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