Kitchener-Waterloo

Guelph girl, 12, died from flu, second death suspected to be flu-related

A parent from Westminster Woods Public School told CBC news the death was at her child's school

February 09, 2018

Layna Vu Pollard died on Jan. 31. Her father, Stan Pollard, said she died after contracting influenza B. (Stan Pollard)

Layna Vu Pollard would have turned 13 on March 27.

But the Grade 7 student from Westminster Woods Public School in Guelph died on Jan. 31 after she contracted influenza B, her father told CBC News.

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"She was a very loving child," Stan Pollard said in messages on Facebook, saying they had just laid his daughter to rest on Friday morning and he was too distraught to speak.

He and his daughter loved making short films together and he said she was a "daddy's girl."

"She will be missed very much," he said.

Pollard's death is the area's first pediatric death by flu this season, Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health and CEO of Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health, told CBC K-W.

A second child has also died, also believed to be from influenza, but that has not yet been confirmed by public health, Mercer said. 

Layna Vu Pollard with her dad, Stan Pollard. (Stan Pollard)

Parents told of death, not flu

Public health has not released the gender or age of the children, but Mercer said they were both under the age of 17.

A parent from Westminster Woods Public School told CBC News the deaths were at her child's school.

"On Wednesday morning, a Grade 7 student from Westminster Woods PS passed away," said a letter to parents — obtained by CBC News, dated Jan. 31. The letter does not say how the child died.

Another letter dated Feb. 6 was sent to parents that said the public health unit has "received calls in recent days about the influenza virus." It did not say anything about flu related deaths.

The parent, who did not wish to be named, told CBC News there has been no notification from the school that the deaths were flu related.

The parent also said the second death was a child in second grade who had cystic fibrosis. 

Cases not related

Mercer would not confirm if the deaths were at the same school, but said the cases are not related to one another.

"One child did not get the infection from the other child," Mercer said.

"Influenza is so widely circulating this year, one can get influenza from any environment whether it would be a school or a classroom, or perhaps your hockey game, your dance class, music lessons — anywhere people are you can get influenza."

She said the confirmed death involved the strain influenza B, which is widely circulating in southwestern Ontario. The suspected death was also from strain influenza B.

Mercer also said the strain of B that is circulating is the strain of flu you would be protected from when receiving a flu shot.

According to Mercer though, a recent Canadian study estimates that the vaccine is 55% effective in protecting against the Influenza B virus.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said in a report dated Jan. 27 there have been five lab-confirmed flu-related deaths in children so far this season.

If the second of the two deaths reported by WDG Public Health is confirmed to be flu related, the total deaths will go up to at least seven in the nation, with two being Guelph children at the same school in less than two weeks. 

In Waterloo region there have been 13 flu-related deaths this season.

Julie Kalbfleisch, a spokesperson for Waterloo Region Public Health said "no pediatric deaths related to flu have been reported to us."

As of Tuesday, there have been 6,447 lab confirmed cases of influenza in Ontario.

Vu Pollard enjoyed making videos and her dad shared this one in particular with us. Watch this video made by Layna and Stan Pollard in 2013:

With files from Jackie Sharkey, Joe Pavia, Kate Bueckert
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