By Christina Hager

HAVERHILL (CBS) — Six-year-old Delilah Lovelace loved to sing and dance and dreamed of someday being a mermaid. Monday, the Haverhill first grader became Massachusetts’ first child to die of a flu-related illness.

“It doesn’t hit home until something like this happens,” said Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini. “This is a terrible incident, and it affects not only the family, and our hearts and prayers go out to the family, but it affects so many different families who are all now worried and scared about what could happen to their children.”

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Delilah Lovelace (Courtesy Photo)

In response to little Delilah’s death, the City organized a free flu shot clinic Wednesday afternoon and evening.

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Local mom Taisha Madero rushed her children over after school. “The vaccine won’t prevent 100%, but it’s more comforting knowing they have some kind of protection.”

Nationwide, 63 children have died of flu-related illnesses so far this flu season. Massachusetts health officials are urging vaccination.

“It’s going to continue for another few weeks,” said the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s infectious disease specialist, Dr. Alfred DeMaria. “Even when you breathe, you breath out influenza viruses, so the transmission is by droplets from the airways, so people can be infectious for a day before they have symptoms.”

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Haverhill school superintendent James Scully sent a message home to parents urging anyone with kids who haven’t been vaccinated to take advantage of the city’s free flu shots.

Christina Hager