Waterbury Teacher Dies of Flu: Family

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The Waterbury community is mourning the loss of a middle school teacher who family said died of the flu.

Waterbury Public Schools officials confirmed Harley Gaafar died late Tuesday afternoon and said they were “devastated” by her passing.

Gaafar taught ESL at West Side Middle School and was well-liked by her students, district officials said. There will be social workers and grief counselors available for staff and students.

“Superintendent Verna D. Ruffin and the Waterbury Public Schools community expresses its deepest condolences to the family of Ms. Harley Gaafar. Ms. Gaafar was an English as a Second Language teacher at West Side Middle School. She was a beloved member of the staff. Grief counselors and social workers have been made available to support the students and staff as they grieve," district officials said in a statement.

Gaafar worked with the district for seven years. She was 28 years old.

Dr. Warren Corson III, who worked with Gaafar and her sister at the Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm in Wolcott, described her as a natural teacher with an "intoxicating" smile that she shared with everyone.

"Those who have encountered Harley will tell you that no matter the pain you were feeling when you met her, you would be smiling before you walked away. She just had that way about her," Warren wrote.

Services will be Friday.

There have been 40 flu-related deaths in Connecticut this season, according to state health officials.

Flu Symptoms

How to Protect Yourself, Family From the Flu

  • Get a flu vaccine each year
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw away any used tissues
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow
  • Wash your hands often

What to Do When You Are Sick With the Flu:

  • Most people who get sick with the flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs and will recover in less than two weeks.
  • Limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.
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