School vomiting bug strikes down 90 staff and pupils

Maxine Purdy, headteacher at Seaburn Dene Primary School, Sunderland
Maxine Purdy, headteacher at Seaburn Dene Primary School, Sunderland
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A VIOLENT outbreak of vomiting struck down almost half a school.

About 90 children and members of staff at Seaburn Dene Primary School were hit by sickness and diarrhoea, with one little girl vomiting up to 25 times.

Although it has yet to be confirmed, it is likely the onslaught was the winter sickness bug, norovirus.

Headteacher Maxine Purdy, who was one of the victims, said in her 32 years of teaching she had never seen anything like it.

“It was absolutely horrendous. It was so virulent and violent, I’m sure there would have been some frightened children and parents.

“There was nothing we could have done to prevent it – it just hit almost instantaneously.”

The headteacher said she was struck down by the bug on Thursday evening while at the gym and had to inform her deputy to take over.

However, Ms Purdy wasn’t the only person off the following day, an unbelievable 63 parents rang in to say their child had been violently ill, along with three staff members.

She said: “During the day a further 21 children went down with it.”

The headteacher praised staff who had to deal with vomiting, distressed and poorly children, while waiting for parents to pick them up and said the cleaning staff did a fantastic job under horrible circumstances.

She said the school was hit by a winter sickness bug last Christmas, but nothing on the scale of the latest incident.

Ms Purdy said the sickness seemed to last about 24 hours, but said parents were great in sticking to the school policy of not sending the child back until 48 hours after the last episode of sickness.

She said the attendance is now almost back up to normal, but there are stories of parents and older brothers and sisters coming down with the bug.

A spokeswoman for the Health Protection Agency said: “Norovirus has not been confirmed as causing the outbreak of diarrhoea and vomiting at Seaburn Dene Primary School, but it is still thought to be the most likely cause.”

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BETWEEN 130 and 250 cases of norovirus outbreaks are reported each year effecting between 600,000 and a million people in the UK.

Norovirus infection is a common cause of gastro-enteritis.

The onset of illness is often sudden and severe with projectile vomiting and the symptoms, which can also include diarrhoea, raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs, normally last for 24 to 48 hours.

Most people will make a complete recovery from norovirus without long-term effects.

People should stay at home and take plenty of fluids until they are free of symptoms for 48 hours, to help to limit the spread of the illness as much as possible.

However, if the illness persists for more than a few days, patients should contact their doctor by phone or take advice from NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

Norovirus is easily spread from one person to another and outbreaks commonly occur in semi-closed environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and on cruise ships, where people are in close contact with one another for long periods.

The most effective way to respond to an outbreak is to institute good hygiene measures.

They include strict hand-washing especially when handling food, after contact with infected people, and after using the toilet; disinfecting contaminated areas promptly; not allowing infected people to prepare food until 48 hours after symptoms have elapsed; and isolating ill people for up to 48 hours after their symptoms have ceased.