The 10-year-old New Canaan boy who died unexpectedly Sunday morning, sending shockwaves through the public schools and wider community devastated by the loss and agonizing for a widely liked local family, had tested positive for the flu—facts that “are likely related,” according to New Canaan’s medical director.
A New York state medical investigator has yet to determine a cause of death definitively, though that office’s findings likely will be made public this week, Dr. David Reed told NewCanaanite.com.
“While this is rare, it is not unheard of,” Reed said when asked generally about flu taking a young person’s life.
“There is no evidence that there is, at this point, anything unusual with the flu. We are experiencing higher numbers of flu this year than in the recent past. What can be done is even at this point getting a flu shot matters because flu season runs right into March. It peaks in February and it’s 10 to 14 days or so after immunization that it [vaccine] becomes effective.”
According to a Connecticut Department of Public Health update for the week ending Jan. 6, flu activity in the state has “rapidly increased during the last few weeks.”
News of Nico Mallozzi’s untimely passing spread in New Canaan after district officials notified the parents of kids in the system, including at West School where the deceased had been a fourth-grader and at Saxe Middle School, which his siblings attend. A brother also has tested positive for flu, Reed said.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said in a statement published on the New Canaan Public Schools website that Nico was “wonderful, enthusiastic, outgoing boy who was known school-wide for his high spirits, limitless energy, and quick smile.”
“He loved sports, especially gathering up his friends to play football at recess, and was a devoted hockey player and teammate. We will miss Nico terribly, and will always cherish our memories of him as a vibrant, fun-loving boy.”
According to Reed, the flu vaccine this year is not as effective as it has been in the recent past, though “with that being said, the vaccine does provide benefits such as a less virulent course and so forth, so people should get a vaccination.”
“I have talked to people and talked to pediatricians including the one who took care of this young person, and if the parents of children who have been in contact, playing sports with him are concerned, they should call their own pediatrician and discuss whether or not to get Tamiflu.”
Reed underscored that he is not recommending every child take that brand of antiviral medicine, as has been reported elsewhere, because each individual child’s case is different and underlying conditions such as asthma may affect a pediatrician’s advice.
Typically, Reed said, flu deaths occur in older people—about 75 to 80 percent occur in people older than 65—and they die from pneumonia. Younger people who get flu sometimes have a more virulent, hyper-immune reaction, Reed said.
Luizzi said school officials are taking the precaution of having custodians “perform extra ‘cleanings’ at all buildings.”
“These efforts will continue throughout the influenza season. However, please be aware that, according to the CDC, ‘Studies have shown that the flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for only 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on a surface. Therefore, special sanitizing processes beyond routine cleaning, including closing schools to clean every surface in the building, are not necessary or recommended to slow the spread of flu, even during a flu outbreak.’ Nonetheless, we will continue our extra cleanings, especially during weekends and school breaks, in the months ahead.”