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6-year-old Norwalk girl dies from flu complications

NORWALK --  Six-year-old Emma Splan received a flu vaccination in September. Her parents learned the hard way that it didn’t matter.

Her mother, Christy Pugh, was understandably too distraught Monday to conduct an interview, but she communicated through Facebook messenger with FOX 61 noting that her first grader passed away Sunday morning at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.

Emma Splan's dance teacher describes this precious pupil, since the age of 18 months, with one word.

“Everything about her sparkled,” said Michelle Sperry, Founder and Director of the Connecticut Theater Dance School​. “Her eyes sparkled her eyelashes sparkled. She left a dress with the sparkle. And we had dress up time she always pick the most sparkly crown, the most sparkly wand and the most sparkly costume.”

Emma's mother tells FOX61 her daughter developed a fever and runny nose last Tuesday. By Saturday she was vomiting and her heart stopped. The next morning, the only child of Christy Pugh and Davis Splan became the second Connecticut child to die from complications related to the flu this season.

“I was crying with my little one last night because she was right with me and she just said mom I feel so sorry for that little girl,” said Norwalk parent Hernancy Rivera.

Both children, who have died as a result of the flu in Connecticut this season, are from Fairfield County. The first was 10-year-old Nico Mallozzi of New Canaan and now Norwalk's Emma Splan.

“Our communities, New Canaan to Norwalk, are so close that the overlap of sadness is tremendous,” said Sperry.

Hearing that this six-year-old girl passed away made Mrs. Rivera think it could have been her daughter, who was sick all last week, just like Emma.

“We brought her twice to the doctor and they said it wasn’t the flu, but she has all of the symptoms,” she said.

Attempting to put a positive spin on such a tough topic is very difficult Rivera added.

“We tried to tell our little one that she (Emma) is an angel,” she said.

The Principal of the Columbus Magnet School in Norwalk, Medard Thomas, said in a letter sent home to parents Sunday that the school system has been beefing up their disinfecting process for the past month at all Norwalk schools.

Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Hospital for Central Connecticut Dr. Virginia Bieluch said children with the flu vaccine can still get influenza, explaining that no vaccine is 100 percent effective.

The flu can be difficult to vaccinate against, according to Dr. Bieluch because it is constantly changing, and there are different strains.

"Preliminary evidence that came out last week is that in children the vaccine is about 59 percent effective this year thus far, when you take  all the different types of influenza," she said. "It’s more effective than it is for adults."

Dr. Bieluch said children with health complications can be more susceptible; however, healthy kids can die from the flu.

"When the virus attack’s children, children have a very robust immune system so they sort of overfight the virus and that can cause harm to the child’s body."

She believes the flu-shot is still your best defense.

"If your children haven’t been vaccinated it’s not too late to get them vaccinated for influenza," Dr. Bieluch said. "If your child is sick seek medical attention, if your child is sick keep your child at home so they don't expose other children to influenza."

The CDC is reporting 84 pediatric deaths nationwide, this flu season.

A GoFundMe page has been made for Emma.