A Pennsylvania boy nicknamed “Smiley” after his infectious grin died early this week from flu-related complications, according to the boy’s school and his mother.
Matthew Wzorek, 7, was a second-grader at Worrall Elementary School in Broomall, Pa. He died Sunday after battling the flu, his mother, Rebecca Horowitz Wzorek, wrote in a Facebook post.
“This may be the hardest thing I am ever going to have to write. Heaven gained an angel yesterday. Matthew was taken from us after a battle with the flu,” she wrote. “He was the kindest child and could brighten any room. We are grieving and trying to process it all but can’t understand how this could happen.”
“Please say a prayer and hold on tightly to your loved ones,” she added.
The Marple Newton School District, which Worrall Elementary is a part of, also posted a statement to its website in response to Matthew’s passing. Students in the boy’s class were likely exposed to the Influenza B virus — which emerged early this flu season and largely affects children — as was his teacher, who contracted influenza B but is being treated for the illness.
“Quite frankly, since the virus is airborne, the entire district should be on high alert for signs and symptoms of the flu,” the district said.
Matthew is survived by his parents, four grandparents and brother Jacob, in addition to “numerous aunts, uncles and cousins,” according to his obituary.
“He brought happiness and joy to everyone that was blessed enough to be a part of his beautiful life. His dad nicknamed him Smiley. He loved Disney, Harry Potter, cuddling with his family, and putting his all into everything (including basketball, baseball, football and soccer),” it reads.
Matthew’s funeral services will be private, according to a separate post from Matthew’s mother, but a memorial service and shiva — a week-long period of mourning, as per Jewish tradition — will be held at a later date.
As of Feb. 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 92 pediatric flu-related deaths in the U.S. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine each season, and those at risk of serious flu complications should seek immediate medical attention if suspected symptoms develop.