A flu season that has seen two Guelph students die from the virus is continuing to take a toll across the city.

Public health officials said Monday that an estimated 10 per cent of students were absent from school due to respiratory illness.

Two students at Westminster Woods Public School – a 12-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy – have died of influenza since Jan. 31.

The two cases are not believed to be directly linked to each other. The Upper Grand District School Board has responded by ordering thorough cleaning to disinfect several schools, as well as increasing the availability of guidance counsellors and other supports.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has also added a number of flu shot clinics for this week in Guelph, Fergus and Orangeville.

The flu shot is also available through pharmacists, although some pharmacies have run out of vaccinations and are waiting on new shipments.

Health officials say the flu shot remains the best way of defending against the influenza virus. According to infectious disease specialist Dr. Neil Rau, it will take two weeks for a flu shot to offer its full immunization potential to a recipient, while there are likely six to eight weeks left before flu season is over.

“When you look at the whole curve, we’re still on the downside,” Rau said Monday.

“(With influenza) A we’re past the peak. (With influenza) B we’re hitting the peak or past the peak.”

Both children died of this year’s influenza B strain. This year’s flu vaccine is considered 55 per cent effective against the B strain and less effective against the A strain.

Health officials say there is no reason to keep children away from school over flu fears unless they are sick themselves.

They are, however, urging that parents not bring flu-stricken kids to the hospital unless they start to have trouble breathing.

“You know your child’s in trouble if they can’t drink a glass of water without panting,” said Dr. Bruno DiGravio, the chief of pediatrics at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.

The influenza B strain is being blamed for a higher than average level of nursing home flu outbreaks and hospital admissions this winter across Ontario.

With reporting by Daryl Morris and Natalie van Rooy