School forced to close over winter vomiting bug

Staff at Pilrig Park School have been hailed for the way they dealt with the virus and kept lessons going. Picture: Dan Phillips
Staff at Pilrig Park School have been hailed for the way they dealt with the virus and kept lessons going. Picture: Dan Phillips
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A SCHOOL for children with learning difficulties has been shut after a winter vomiting bug swept through the campus.

More than half of the 93 students and five staff, plus headteacher Ellen Muir, at Pilrig Park School have been sent home after falling ill in what health chiefs have labelled a potential norovirus outbreak.

A deep clean was due to be carried out across school buildings at Balfour Place to rid the premises of the contagious bug.
Ms Muir praised staff and pupils for coping with the outbreak and ensuring lessons were not interrupted before public health authorities ordered the school to close.

She said: “In all my years teaching I’ve never experienced anything like this before, but I can’t praise my staff highly enough.

“They pulled out all the stops and were real troupers.

“They have been amazing dealing with the incident whilst also carrying on with providing an education for the children.”

Norovirus can be caught from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The illness causes a person’s stomach and intestines to become inflamed, leading to nausea, diarrhoea and 
vomiting.

Several pupils and teachers at Pilrig Park had reported feeling unwell as early as Wednesday and by yesterday up to 50 students had been struck down.

The school will not be re-opened until Monday, with a 48-hour period needed for the treatment to eradicate all signs of the virus.

Dr Dona Milne, deputy director of public health and health policy at NHS Lothian, said the outbreak of vomiting could be linked to norovirus.

She said: “We have been informed that around half of the school’s pupils and five members of staff have displayed symptoms.

“Public health colleagues advised that the school should be closed today to help break the chain of infection and
to allow for a full clean of the premises over the weekend.

“We have also advised that all evening and weekend activities which were due to take place at the school be postponed until we can reassess the situation on Monday.”

Pilrig Park is a state-run secondary school that educates students ranging in age from 12 to 18. All of the students have moderate to complex learning needs, with an individual education plan set for each pupil.