FOUR pupils are at the centre of a health scare at a Solihull primary school after being diagnosed with hepatitis A.
The quartet of cases at St Alphege Nursery and Infant School in New Road, have been confirmed by the Health Protection Agency, an independent body set up by the government, who are now advising the school on how to control the outbreak, along with Solihull NHS Care Trust and Solihull Council.
The viral infection is thought to have been passed from child to child by poor hygiene, with youngsters failing to wash their hands after going to the toilet and touching others, transmitting it on to someone else, but the original cause of it is unknown.
It is spread through infected faeces and symptoms include pale stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting and in more extreme cases, jaundice and liver inflammation.
The four pupils who have contracted the virus, are believed to have a mild form of it.
All parents of children at the school have been told about the cases, with staff and pupils at the establishment being offered vaccination as a precautionary measure.
The first case amongst a pupil in Year 2 is thought to have come to light in February, with the fourth case appearing at the beginning of this month.
The infection does occur in this country but is much more common in countries such as Africa and Central America where standards of sanitation and sewage disposal are low, with children and young adults more prone to getting it.
An estimated 95 per cent of pupils at the school were vaccinated against the virus on Monday with staff on the site due to be vaccinated yesterday.
There is no specific treatment for Hepatitis A but complete recovery is expected within a couple of months.
Dr Roger Gajraj, Consultant for the HPA in the West Midlands, said: “Although outbreaks still occur, hepatitis A infection has become less common in the UK nowadays with a high proportion of cases acquired during overseas travel. Symptoms tend to be quite mild in children but more serious in adults.”
“The infection is spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is easily prevented by good hygiene, particularly after using the toilet by disinfecting all touch points on the toilet. It is also essential to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water especially before preparing food or eating.”
One parent, who did not want to be named, stated he only found out about the outbreak last week after a letter was sent out to parents from the school and expressed shock on discovering pupils had been diagnosed with it.
The Solihull Times tried to contact the headteacher, Mrs Jo Slough at the school for a comment on the matter, but was told that all enquiries were being dealt with by the HPA.