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NJ Dept. of Health Investigating Whether WHS Student's Death Caused by Flu

A Westfield High School student died Wednesday.

The passing of a Westfield High School student is currently being investigated by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services as a suspected flu death. 

Mark Hollaway, a 14-year-old freshman, died Wednesday. He was remembered for his love of basketball.

The following statement was issued Thursday afternoon by the Westfield Board of Health: 

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has received a report regarding the death of a Union County juvenile and are investigating it as a suspected flu death. While this case is still under investigation, it is important to keep in mind the following steps you can take to avoid the flu:

  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough;
  • Wash your hands frequently;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth - germs spread this way;
  • Stay home from work or school when you are sick.          

Residents are encouraged to contact their private physician for guidance if they suspect they have the flu. Those who have the flu should stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine) except to get medical care. For more tips on what to do, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm.

While the Westfield Regional Health Department has exhausted its supply of the flu vaccine, there are pharmacies offering the flu vaccine. To find one, go to: Find a Flu Shot Locator . The Westfield Regional Health Department recommends calling the pharmacy first. People can also search online for a local urgent care center.  Urgent care centers often have physicians and nurse practitioners on staff who can administer flu vaccine.

Parents who have difficulty locating vaccine for children under 18 may be able to access vaccine at local pharmacy walk-in medical clinics. Pharmacists cannot vaccinate anyone under 18 years of age: however, CVS Minute Clinics are staffed with nurse practitioners and physician assistants who may be able to vaccinate the preschool/childcare population. Consumers should access the CVS Minute Clinic website for locations and detailed information about the populations these clinics serve:http://www.minuteclinic.com/.

If the student's death is determined to be flu-related, it would be the third flu fatality in the state this season.

When Patch contacted Westfield schools spokesperson Lorre Korecky Wednesday to ask about absentee rates in light of widely-reported instances of flu throughout the state, she said she had checked with the high school and noted, "So far, the school has not experienced absenteeism in greater numbers than is normal for this time of year."

Korecky issued the following statement on behalf of the district shortly after noon on Thursday: "The High School was notified today by a family member of the off-campus death yesterday of one of our students. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family, and we respect the privacy of the family at this very difficult time."

"My heart goes out to the student’s family and friends," added WHS Principal Peter Renwick. "Our teachers and counselors are ready to provide support and guidance to classmates as we grieve this loss together."

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