UPDATE: School sickness bug outbreak; cleaning underway

Confirmed sickness reports at a Colchester Primary school indicate symptoms common with the Norovirus infection and are being managed by Public Health England.

Fiveways Primary School on Winstree Road in Stanway, Colchester confirmed today 64 pupils were absent on Thursday 14th December and 110 pupils were absent on Friday 15th December with many absences confirmed to be due to a sickness bug.

In a series of email communications from the school since Thursday, Acting Head Mrs Walton Steed confirmed the absences to parents and went on further to comment on a matter with the schools water supply which occurred within the same week.

It has been suggested that the situation was not helped by children returning to school on Friday after being ill on the previous day, although the school confirms they immediately isolated these children until they could be collected.Parents had previously spoken out in anger at the high rate of absences asking for the school to close and undertake deep-cleaning.

A statement to parents from the Acting Head of the school on Friday, 15th December said: “Following on from our email yesterday, we would like to reassure parents that we have been in regular contact with the Health Protection Agency over the past two days regarding the current winter vomitting [sic] bug.”

Letter from Acting Head, Fiveways Primary School, Stanway to parents on Monday 18th December, 2017

Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of the Department of Health which independently advises and supports government, local authorities and the NHS have confirmed they have been made aware “that a number of pupils at Fiveways Primary School, Colchester have been suffering with symptoms common with the Norovirus infection, although this is yet to be confirmed.”

Dr Sally Millership at Public Health England East of England, said: “Norovirus affects people of all ages. It is highly contagious and although unpleasant, people usually recover within two to three days.

“Good hygiene such as hand washing and disinfecting contaminated surfaces is the key to preventing this infection spreading.

“There is no treatment for the Norovirus but it is important to keep hydrated to combat the loss of fluids. Most people will recover within a few days and there are no long-term effects.”

The advice from PHE for people with symptoms is:

• Stay away from work, school or college until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours

• Do not handle or prepare food for other people until you have been symptom free for a minimum period of 48 hours

• Do not visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes to avoid introducing the infection to environments where it could spread easily and put vulnerable people at greater risk

• Do not visit your GP surgery or local A&E Unit. You will recover naturally without treatment, but it is important to rest and take plenty of drinks to replace lost fluids

• Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly at all times, but particularly after toilet visits and before eating

• If your symptoms persist or appear to be worsening, phone your family doctor or NHS 111 for advice

Additional advice on diarrhoea and vomiting can also be found on the NHS website.

Norovirus is one of the most frequent cause of infectious gastroenteritis in England and Wales, it is also known as the “winter vomiting disease” due to its seasonality and typical symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.

It has been estimated that Norovirus affects approximately 1 million people in the UK. The symptoms usually last from 12 to 60 hours and will start with the sudden onset of nausea followed by vomiting and diarrhoea.

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