A NOROVIRUS outbreak has shut a city primary school after 150 children and 14 staff were struck down within just 24 hours.
Nearly half of Oxgangs Primary has been laid low by the winter vomiting bug, forcing the school and nursery to close until Monday.
School bosses have ordered a deep clean of the campus and parents have been being advised to keep children at home in a bid to halt the rapid spread of the virus.
The outbreak comes three years after Balgreen Primary was forced to cancel classes when 50 pupils contracted the winter vomiting bug.
Alison Haines, 42, whose two children attend Oxgangs, said the number of children falling ill had soared at an alarming rate in just one day.
“I went to pick my daughter up and out of the 12 who started school – in a class of about 25 – there were five left at the end of the day,” she said.
“Half the class didn’t turn up in the morning then another seven obviously had to leave. I think it was the same in most classes. I think it’s a bit of a headache for parents but what can you do?”
The illness, which generally causes mild stomach symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, is highly infectious and easily spread in public places.
Health chiefs have advised the school to close in a bid to contain the outbreak.
Parents were sent text messages and e-mails yesterday afternoon warning them of the closure.
Father-of-two Ali MacMillan said he was keeping his “fingers crossed” daughter Ava did not fall ill before her fifth birthday on Saturday. The sales advisor, 37, said he was worried the bug could spread to parents and into their workplaces.
“I’m hoping Ava avoids it but I doubt it when it’s already spread that quickly,” he said.
“I think the school has done all it can and the message was sent out pretty quickly. It’s just one of those things but I suppose it could get worse if all the parents get it too.”
Dr Lorna Willocks, consultant in public health for NHS Lothian, said the health board was working with the council and school to monitor the situation. She advised anyone with the illness to stay off school or work until 48 hours after symptoms had subsided.
She said: “The school will undergo a thorough deep clean and we are advising parents to ensure that all members of the family wash their hands frequently especially before meal times and after using the toilet.”
Oxgangs councillor Jason Rust said: “Obviously this is concerning, but in the best interests of pupils and staff.
“Hopefully the school will be functioning again as soon as possible.”
Andy Gray, head of schools and community services at the city council, said the wellbeing of “everyone at the school is paramount”.
How the infection takes hold
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that are the most common cause of stomach bugs in the UK and can affect all ages.
Symptoms of the virus include sudden onset of nausea, projectile vomiting and diarrhoea and are displayed within 12 to 24 hours of contracting it.
People usually make a full recovery within a few days but it can be more dangerous in the elderly or for people who are already ill. The virus is easily spread from an infected person to another by close contact.
This is usually because of the virus being present on the infected person’s hands after they have been to the toilet.
Outbreaks commonly occur in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and on cruise ships where people are in close proximity to each other.
Getting norovirus cannot always be avoided, but good hygiene can help to limit the virus spreading.
Top tips include:
• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food.
• Do not share towels, flannels or toothbrushes.
• Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with the virus. It is best to use a bleach-based household cleaner.
• Wash any clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated with the virus. Wash the items separately and on a hotwash to ensure that the virus is killed.
• Avoid eating raw, unwashed produce