Flu complications caused New Canaan boy’s sudden death, say officials
NEW CANAAN — As the town continues to deal with the tragic death of a popular 10-year-old, New Canaan’s director of health has confirmed pneumonia brought on by the flu to be Nico Mallozzi’s cause of death.
“From the start, we have been in close contact with medical professionals, who have shared what they know about the situation,” said Superintendent of Schools Bryan D. Luizzi. “At this point, it has been confirmed that Nico had been diagnosed with Influenza B, a strain of the flu that is currently spreading in the Northeast.”
According to Dr. David Reed, Mallozzi accompanied his hockey team, the RoughRiders, to a tournament in upstate New York over the weekend.
“Nico was not feeling well but wanted to go to Buffalo with his team,” the New Canaan director of health said.
The New Canaan 10-year-old did not participate in the tournament and when his condition worsened, he was taken to the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. Reed said his family decided to return home Sunday but only made it as far as the Catskills region before Mallozzi took a turn for the worse. He was taken to a New York hospital where he was later that day confirmed dead.
Reed said the New York medical examiner’s office determined the flu, complicated by pneumonia, led to sepsis, which was the cause of death. He also said Mallozzi was otherwise healthy.
Mallozzi’s brother also tested positive for Type B flu, Reed said.
“This has been one of the worst flu seasons and I think it will continue until March,” he said. “If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated now. The flu season varies every year, but a vaccine can mitigate the symptoms.”
Reed recommended anyone who had been exposed to the children should consider discussion of further flu treatment of Tamiflu, an antiviral drug, with their doctor.
Given the flu connection, New Canaan schools are taking extra precautions.
“We have also taken the precaution of having our custodians perform extra ‘cleanings at all buildings,” said Luizzi. “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 two to eight 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.”
New Canaan schools were closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday, but a gathering was held at West School, where Mallozzi attended, to provide support and information for parents and students.
Luizz said Tuesday that counselors at all town schools “are ready to assist students and parents tomorrow and beyond, as we continue to struggle through this awful tragedy together.”
Meanwhile, both New Canaan and the surrounding hockey communities are rallying around the Mallozzi family. A GoFundMe created by a hockey friend Monday night for the “Nico Mallozzi Memorial Fund” raised over $68,000 as of noon Tuesday.
“There are no words to describe the loss we feel,” said a statement from the Mallozzi family on the site. “But we are so appreciative and grateful for the outpouring of support from so many in our hockey family and local community.”
The Connecticut RoughRiders Hockey Club, where Mallozzi played with the 2007 team, announced on their website that a grief counselor would be available for parents, platers and coaches on Tuesday.
The club also posted a message on Jan. 16, announcing that effective immediately, the club would be taking special precautions because of an increase in cases of the flu across the state. The statement asked players not share water bottles, keep their gloves on during handshake lines and not attend practice if they’re experiencing flu symptoms.
“We always went by the book and by what the state said regarding the cleanliness of the rink,” said Ryan Hughes, founder and managing partner of Sono Ice House where the Connecticut RoughRiders practice. “We’re reiterating to people about taking extra precautions and for people to get their flu shots.
Hughes said Malozzi and his siblings played with the club and he knew them from that.
“I knew Nico from around the rink,” Hughes said. “He was here every day, all year round. Nico always kept you on your toes. He was a great hockey player with a great spirit. Everyone knew him as a star.”
Other rink employees also were feeling the loss on Tuesday afternoon.
“He will be missed,” said George Comesana-Vila, a rink ProShop employee. “I knew him for a good eight years and he was a force. He's going to leave a big space to fill. I only just laced his skates last Wednesday here on this box.”
“He was the heart and soul of the rink,” said Dale Derosa, rink manager. “Everyone knew him. He could have ran this place himself. The Mallozzi family is wonderful and was always around the rink. The hockey community is strong in its support and an amazing one at that - you just have to look at the GoFundMe to see that.”