HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- Health officials say eight more people have died from flu complications, including a middle school teacher in Waterbury.

The number brought the total of flu-related deaths so far this season to 40.

Waterbury school officials confirmed to Eyewitness News on Thursday that a teacher was 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 died. 

Her family said she came down with the flu last week and 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 victim's sister.

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 Gaafar said. 

Even in death, Harley's family is hoping she can still teach. They said this should be a reminder for everyone to get their flu shots, even if they'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 found here.

RELATED: Connecticut child's death linked to flu

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

Copyright 2020 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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(2) comments


WFSB why are you not telling parents about the horrible side effects of Tamiflu? I can't imagine you don't know about it. 6 year olds jumping out windows, having permanent brain damage, memory lapses. That's not news worthy? This is well documented, and it's happening in Ct. In fact, it's happening a lot in Ct. As a news organization, id think this is something you'd cover.

Brian C. Duffy

The reason it's not covered is because it's a debunked story that continues to be spread by anonymous dingbats on the internet. The delirium and psychosis that is reported in anecdotal stories is not due to Tamiflu but due the influenza virus itself and accompanying fever.

Brian Duffy ~ Tariffville, CT

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