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Swine flu fever gripping parents

PUBLISHED: 17:28 16 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:25 03 July 2010

A GORLESTON primary school closed this week following an outbreak of swine flu among pupils and senior staff.

Peterhouse Primary School was closed on Wednesday until the new term begins in September after an outbreak which had initially affected only a handful of pupils escalated.

A GORLESTON primary school closed this week following an outbreak of swine flu among pupils and senior staff.

Peterhouse Primary School was closed on Wednesday until the new term begins in September after an outbreak which had initially affected only a handful of pupils escalated.

Parents and schools across the borough went into the summer break amid panic and unfounded rumours about the scale and dangers of the swine flu outbreak.

Anxiety and fear fuelled in part by social networking sites like Facebook were said to be rife across the borough, with worried families having to sort fact from fiction, leading to confusion at the school gates.

Experts this week reinforced their “don't panic” message assuring families that in the vast majority of cases the symptoms of the disease were mild, and predicting a possible holiday lull in the number of new infections.

Earlier this week Peterhouse headteacher Martin Scott said parents were being kept informed by a group text-messaging system that sent the latest updates direct to their mobile phones.

However, as senior staff members began showing flu-like symptoms the school was closed.

At Oriel High School in Gorleston acting head Naomi Palmer said that one member of staff and one year seven boy were thought to have the disease.

Pupils have taken a letter home offering guidance and information about hygiene.

She said: “People are panicking and there have been rumours going around. One parent came up to me and said it was all over Facebook that we had five confirmed cases. Parents are very worried and although I understand why, my concern is with parents who take healthy pupils out of school because their absence has to be unauthorised.

“We are telling parents that we are following government guidance and maintaining levels of normality.”

Mum-of-four Marissa Beason, of Winifred Road, Cobholm, withdrew her two teenage children from Oriel High School and Great Yarmouth High School to prevent the disease advancing through her family which includes two very young children.

She said she was concerned for her 14-year-old son who had suffered pneumonia but angered that the absences were unauthorised, unfairly blemishing their attendance records.

Dr Alistair Lipp director of public health NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney said: “We are going to expect to see more people getting it. What we have seen in other parts of the country is that it is usually kids or younger people catching it at more or less the same time. We will expect rumour stories but we will never know if someone has actually had swine flu.

“It is not anything to panic over. There have been one or two tragic cases where people have died and that has been put down to swine flu but generally it is a mild condition.”

He said anyone with symptoms at work or school holiday clubs should go home straightaway but that removing yourself or your child because of worries about catching it was unnecessary and only caused disruption.

National planning strategies assumed that between one in four and one in two people would eventually catch it, with the younger age group more at risk because they passed it on more easily between themselves.

Some people, he said, shrugged it off in a day or two without medical help, but doctors are prescribing anti-virals without seeing patients. Anyone who thinks they may have symptoms must not go to a surgery or pharmacy.

Check your symptoms online at www.nhs.uk or by calling 0800 1513513. People who still think they have the disease can telephone their doctor and get their “flu-friend” to collect a voucher from a specific pharmacy.

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