Hamilton preschooler dies of respiratory illness, district says in phone alert to parents

Source: NJ.com Times of Trenton
A 4-year-old student at Yardville Elementary School died Thursday of a yet-unidentified respiratory illness, according to a pre-recorded call sent to parents Friday morning from school principal Elena M. Manning.
Jeff Plunkett, Hamilton Township health officer, said tests are being run by the state Department of Health to determine if the child died of a form of influenza. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta also has agreed to fast-track tests to determine if the enterovirus could be blamed.
Plunkett said there is no danger to the preschool students nor to the greater student body at Yardville Elementary. “It (the danger) would be no different at this time of year than if you were walking through the mall.”
Tests from the state health department could be completed by the weekend, Plunkett said, (though) CDC tests would take longer.
“The Department extends its sympathy to the family,” Donna Leusner, department spokeswoman. “We understand parents are concerned. What’s important is for parents and physicians to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of flu-like illness in children and to seek medical care if they are concerned–especially if a child is having trouble breathing.”
Students were sent home Friday with a letter signed by Plunkett, warning parents of an “increased number of respiratory infections” in district schools. Plunkett instructed parents and children to “use good respiratory hygiene,” such as coughing and sneezing into a tissue or elbow.” He also recommended frequent washing of hands, to avoid sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Common symptoms of respiratory infections include fever, sore throat, coughing, fatigue, body or muscle aches and nasal or chest congestion. “Infected individuals generally recover on their own without incident,” Plunkett wrote. “However, some individuals, especially those with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, may experience severe complications and require further treatment.” Parla suggested parents contact a health care provider if a child shows symptoms of a respiratory illness.
The preschool classroom was sanitized, Parla said. Workers wearing white masks were outside the school around noon cleaning off classroom materials, including toys. The workers used hoses to wash their hands after handling the items.
Former PTA president Jennifer Kraemer, a current school board candidate, said the “parent pipeline” had been passing along information to each other as the day went on. “Since it just happened, everybody’s slowly finding out,” Kraemer said. “Of course, it will be panic time but it’s not like it’s mass hysteria. I take things with a grain of salt.”
“I would have shut down the school and conducted the cleaning without the students present. It has to be unsettling for them to see people walking around on the playground, and I’d much rather error on the side of caution,” she said.

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