50 children off sick after flu-like virus outbreak at Leeds school

Around 50 pupils have been forced to take days off school after the outbreak of a flu-like virus at a Leeds school.

Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 5:00 pm
Holy Name School, Cookridge (Photo: Google).
Holy Name School, Cookridge (Photo: Google).

Holy Name Catholic Voluntary Academy in Cookridge was one of several schools affected in Yorkshire.

The school underwent a deep clean last week to try to halt the spread of illness.

Public Health England Yorkshire and Humber’s health protection team is working with local authorities across the region after flu and other winter viral illnesses amongst pupils.

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Pupils have been off sick with a flu-like virus.

Aisling Wells, Head of School at Holy Name, said: " We are one of several schools in the area which have recently experienced higher levels of pupil absence through sickness and ‘flu-like symptoms.

"We consulted with Public Health and have carried out their advice of informing parents so they are more aware of the Catch it, Bin it, Kill It procedure.

"We also instigated a deeper clean across school [last] week, we also sent an educational video on the importance of hand washing to our teachers so that they could share it with the pupils and encourage them to drink plenty of water.

"The NHS is responsible, with parental consent, for the administration and delivery of a programme of vaccination in schools, and we have also informed parents of the NHS Guidance to follow, detailing measures to minimise the risk of infection."

Leeds City Council has been asked how many other schools in the city have been affected.

Burley Oaks Primary School in Burley-in-Wharfedale closed on Wednesday following reports of dozens of pupils and staff being hit by the flu-type virus.

Dr Nicholas Aigbogun, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for PHE Yorkshire and Humber, said: “A number of schools across the region are reporting absences due to

symptoms of likely viral illness including influenza (flu) and norovirus.

“We expect viral illnesses of this kind to circulate in schools and the community at this time of year and we have been providing advice to parents and schools to help reduce the spread

of infection.

“Flu can be extremely unpleasant for young children but for most healthy people it is a self- limiting illness. Some people including older people, those with long-term medical conditions

or weakened immune systems can be more at risk of developing complications and should seek prompt medical assessment if they develop symptoms of flu.

“The flu vaccination is the best form of protection we have. If they haven’t already had the flu nasal spray, it is important children who are in the clinical risk groups of flu visit their GP as

soon as possible to be vaccinated."

Dr Aigbogun said primary school children should take up the opportunity to be vaccinated when their school vaccination programme begins, and toddlers aged two and three should visit their GP surgery as normal to receive it.

He added: “We also encourage adults in risk groups for flu: including pregnant women, those aged 65 and over and people with long term medical conditions or weakened immune systems, to book in with their GP or local pharmacy to receive the free vaccine.”

“The risk of all infections can be reduced by practising good hand hygiene, particularly after using the toilet, after using a tissue to catch a cough or a sneeze, and before eating.

“If you are concerned about your child’s symptoms, or need further advice on how to manage an illness please consult your GP or NHS 111 in the normal way.”

Public Health England advice

Influenza (flu)

Flu and flu-like viruses spread easily between people from coughs and sneezes. They can live on hands and surface for up to 24 hours. Symptoms of flu may develop quickly and can

include:

 Sudden fever

 Dry, chesty cough

 Sore throat

 Aching body

 Headache

 Tiredness

 Diarrhoea or tummy pain

 Nausea

For most healthy people flu is an unpleasant but self-limiting illness. However, some people can be more at risk of developing severe illness or complications including the following

groups:

 those aged 65 years or over

 pregnant women

 those with a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes or a heart, lung,

kidney or neurological disease

 those with a weakened immune system – for example, because of chemotherapy or

HIV

 those resident in long term care facilities

The flu vaccine is the best form of protection we have, it reduces the risk of catching flu and spreading it to others and is available every flu season for at-risk groups and primary school

children.

For most children the flu vaccine is not an injection, just a quick nasal spray.

Flu can be horrible for little children so it is important to protect them from becoming unwell. Children are also ‘super-spreaders’ of flu and vaccinating them can protect more

vulnerable members of the community.

This year, the children’s programme is being expanded to include all primary school children up to the age of 10 and 11 in school year 6. That means that all primary school children will now be offered the vaccine for the first time, as well as all two and three-year olds (provided they were aged two or three on 31 August 2019).

In addition, all children who are in clinical risk groups should be offered flu vaccination from the age of six months.

Most children will be offered the nasal spray vaccine which has been shown to be effective and has been used in millions of children for many years.

The nasal spray is not licensed for children under the age of 2 years and some children are unable to have the nasal spray due to medical conditions. Eligible children with these medical conditions should be offered an injected quadrivalent flu vaccine.

For more information about any of the above please visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu/.

Viral gastrointestinal illnesses

It is not uncommon for viruses which cause vomiting and diarrhoea to circulate among children (for example norovirus, also known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’).

It is important any child suffering with symptoms stays off school until 48 hours after they last vomited or passed diarrhoea.

Further information can be found at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diarrhoea-and-vomiting/.

General hygiene

The spread of most infectious illnesses is reduced through good hand hygiene.

Children should be encouraged to wash their hands frequently with warm water and soap, particularly after using the toilet, after using a tissue to catch a cough or sneeze, and before

eating.