Swine flu outbreak at schools
Liz Coates SWINE flu's unstoppable march across the borough began in earnest this week with two schools hit by the outbreak and experts warning of worse to come.Parents at St Nicholas Priory Junior School and Northgate St Andrews Infant School were on alert this week after a handful of children reported mild flu-like symptoms.
SWINE flu's unstoppable march across the borough began in earnest this week with two schools hit by the outbreak and experts warning of worse to come.
Parents at St Nicholas Priory Junior School and Northgate St Andrews Infant School were on alert this week after a handful of children reported mild flu-like symptoms.
Although the cases will not be confirmed by laboratory testing, they are being treated as swine flu, and antiviral drugs have been given to the children but not to other family members.
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Both schools were open as usual and keeping a sensible watching brief.
Dr Alistair Lipp, director of public health NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, said the spread of the disease was accelerating, with more schools and workplaces likely to be affected in the coming weeks.
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Some experts, he said, were suggesting a peak in the autumn around the time pupils returned to school and that the effect of the long summer break on the spread of the disease was difficult to predict although it would certainly have an impact on holiday plans for some.
Meanwhile council bosses were this week confident they could continue to deliver vital services like emptying the bins ahead of any pandemic that triggered mass staff sickness.
Mark Burns, head of community services at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said officials had been meeting with health chiefs every two weeks since May and that every effort had been made to control infection via hand wipes and gel within borough council offices.
If large numbers of staff contracted the disease services would be prioritised he said, adding: “We have made sure our HR department can deal with any issues.”
Tracey Waters PA to the headteacher at St Nicholas Priory Junior School said that while some parents had kept their children off school as a precaution and were understandably concerned the general response had been surprisingly measured with no sign of the panic surrounding diagnoses elsewhere.
Letters home had outlined the situation, reassured parents and given hygiene advice, she said and the school sports day on Wednesday went ahead as planned.
“The school is open as normal. The health authority are not confirming any cases and are no longer swabbing. We have three children with slight symptoms,” she said.
Dr Lipp moved to allay fears saying symptoms were generally mild and that most people would recover without any treatment.
He said: “It is getting busy. A lot of people are getting it, it is spreading fast because people have not had it before and are catching it. You are as likely to get it at the bus stop as you are at school so there is no point in closing them.”
The elderly, under-fives and people with pre-existing medical conditions are most at risk.”
Anyone who suspects they have swine flu can check their symptoms online at www.nhs.uk or by calling 0800 1513513. People who still think they have the disease can call their GP who may issue a voucher for antiviral drugs. Do not visit your surgery or Accident and Emergency and get a friend to pick up your antivirals from a specific pharmacy.
Dr Lipp said medics were satisfied they knew enough about the H1N1 virus to end swabbing. The number of cases was being tracked nationally but in most instances people will now never know if they had swine flu or just a bad cold as the official response moves from one of containment to treatment.