The recent death of a 12-year-old Guelph elementary school student is being blamed on influenza and health officials suspect a second death could also be connected to the illness.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health confirmed to CTV News Kitchener on Friday that a coroner informed them of the first student’s death on January 31.

They learned of the second student’s death on Thursday.

Public health said that the cause of death for Layna Pollard, a Grade 7 student, has been positively linked to the Influenza B strain and the second, while still unconfirmed, is suspected of the same cause.

Parents at Westminster Woods Public School in Guelph said both kids attended the school, but public health officials would not confirm which school the students are from nor would they say whether the cases were related to one another.

“Influenza is in the community. We’ve had quite a few institutional outbreaks this season,” a spokesperson for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health told CTV News Kitchener.

“A lot of them are Influenza B and that’s what we’re seeing now in the recent events... Certainly in the case of the child that died, Influenza B was a contributing factor. In the second case that we’re investigating, it’s too early to tell, but samples are at the lab and those results are pending.”

Parents at Westminster Woods said they were told a second child had died over the phone on Thursday before a note was sent home Friday saying the child was a male student in Grade 2.

Pollard’s parents told CTV News on Friday that their daughter began showing flu-like symptoms on Jan. 29.

She became unresponsive two days later and was subsequently taken to hospital where she later died, her parents said.

“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,” her father, Stan Pollard, said.

He said his daughter was a “sensitive, loving child” who had a passion for filmmaking.

The area’s medical officer of health, Dr. Nicola Mercer, told CTV News Kitchener that flu activity has been increasing in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph area recently. Mercer said the past week alone has brought the highest number of cases for the area this year so far.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, as of Jan. 27, there had been five-flu related pediatric deaths so far this season. That number would grow to six or seven if the fatalities in Guelph are considered.

Health officials are urging residents to take precaution and encourage parents of children who haven’t yet received their flu shot to do so at one of the area’s many free flu shot clinics.

According to a recent Canadian study, the effectiveness of this year’s flu shot has been extremely low. A researcher at the BC Centre for Disease Control found that the vaccine has prevented only 10 to 20 per cent of infections caused by the dominant influenza A strain, H3N2.

However, the same study found that the vaccine was 55 per cent effective in preventing cases of the influenza B strain.

Stan Pollard confirmed to CTV News that his daughter did not receive the vaccination.

The Public Health Agency of Canada considers influenza activity in Canada to still be in “peak levels.”

With files from CTV News Kitchener and The Canadian Press