Flu blamed in deaths of two Ont. elementary school children
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.
Layna Vu Pollard, a Grade 7 student, was the first fatality. She started showing flu-like symptoms on Jan. 29, according to her parents. Just 48 hours later, she collapsed in her bathroom and was rushed to hospital, where she died.
Pollard’s father, Stan Pollard, told CTV Kitchener his daughter was always healthy and he’s now “broken” by the death of his only child.
“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 and she’s staring at you…” he said.
“When the doctor finished and said they couldn’t do nothing else, we kissed her on the forehead and a tear came out of her eye.”
The Pollards say their daughter was a “sensitive, loving child” who loved making movies and even won an award for her filmmaking at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The second child to die was a Grade 2 student at the same school Pollard attended, Westminster Woods Public School.
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health confirmed there have been two recent flu deaths among children.
“Our sympathies are with the families at this time,” said Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Merce. “Influenza is a serious respiratory infection and the flu season is not over.”
Pollard died of the influenza B strain of the virus. She had not received the flu shot, which is considered 55 per cent effective at preventing influenza B infection, though only 10 to 20 per cent effective against another dominant flu strain this season, H3N2.
After Pollard’s death, the school sent messages to parents recommending that students get vaccinated against influenza if they have not yet received the flu shot.
On Friday, following the second death, the Upper Grand District School Board sent similar messages to parents urging them to get the flu shot.
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. Local public health clinics have also extended their hours this weekend.
Christopher Beveridge, the health protection director for 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.
According to the latest FluWatch report of the Public Health Agency of Canada released Friday, five children under 16 have died of the flu in Canada as of Feb. 3.
The illness has also resulted in 511 pediatric hospital admissions.
In all, there have been 130 deaths and 3,108 hospital admissions in Canada due to flu this season.
With reports by CTV Kitchener’s Nicole Lampa and Christina Succi