Flu blamed deaths of 2 Guelph elementary school children

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Ryan Flanagan, CTV Kitchener


Published Friday, February 9, 2018 10:51AM EST


Last Updated Saturday, February 10, 2018 2:45PM EST

Two children who attended the same school in Guelph, Ont. have died from the flu, but public health officials say there is no indication the virus passed between them.

Although parents at Westminster Woods Public School say the kids both attended that school, public health officials say there is no indication that the virus was passed from one student to the other.

Layna Pollard, a Grade 7 student, started showing flu-like symptoms on Jan. 29, according to her parents.

Two days later, she became unresponsive and was rushed to hospital, where she died. Doctors had said there was nothing they could do.

“It’s a memory that will go into your brain for the rest of your life – when you’re trying to rescue your daughter and she hasn’t closed her eyes,” father Stan Pollard told CTV News.

Stan Pollard remembers his daughter as a “sensitive, loving child” who loved making movies and had won an award for filmmaking.

Parents at Westminster Woods say they received a phone call Thursday night telling them a second child had passed away. A note sent home Friday said the child was a male Grade 2 student.

After Pollard’s death, parents were given messages recommending that their students be vaccinated against influenza. (Pollard, according to her parents, had not had a flu shot.)

On Friday, following the second death, the Upper Grand District School Board sent a similar notice to every parent across its territory.

Additionally, the school board has sent additional cleaning staff to help sanitize classrooms at schools, and made increased counselling and support services available at Westminster Woods.

Christopher Beveridge, the director of health protection with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, says this year has been a “particularly hard” flu season for the area, with activity hitting a new high this week.

This year’s flu vaccine is considered 10 to 20 per cent effective against the H3N2 strain, and 55 per cent effective at preventing this year’s dominant influenza B strain. Pollard died of the influenza B virus.

Health officials say the flu shot provides the best form of protection against influenza. It is available through pharmacies, health care providers and public health clinics.

Local public health clinics are operating on extended hours this weekend, with clinics in Guelph open until 7 p.m. Friday and then from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday.

With reporting by Nicole Lampa and Christina Succi





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