HEALTH officials are urging people to be alert as schools and hospital wards have been forced to close after an outbreak of norovirus.
The highly-infectious winter bug, which causes sickness and diarrhoea, has struck down people across the country.
Schools in Yorkshire and Northern Ireland have had to shut this week while Southampton General Hospital confirmed it has closed wards.
Students from Howden School in Goole, East Yorks, were sent home on Monday and told to steer clear until Thursday after an outbreak of cases.
Another secondary school in nearby Bradford, was also shutdown for a deep clean after more than 15 per cent of its pupils and staff were struck down.
Parkside School’s headteacher Andy Taylor told parents that due to a “serious outbreak” of norovirus, Public Health England advised them to close until Thursday to prevent the spread of infection.
In Northern Ireland, the outbreak has caused pupils to miss exams and one primary school has cancelled its Christmas pantomime.
As many as 150 students called in sick at one secondary school alone last Thursday, it’s reported.
Around a quarter of the 360 pupils at Clandeboye Primary were off sick yesterday with the school closed today.
Headteacher Julie Thomas told the BBC it was an “unprecedented outbreak” and they were trying as hard as they can to stem the infection.
Killinchy Primary School, in Newtownards, County Down, was closed voluntarily on Friday for a deep clean after people fell ill.
Headmaster Christopher Currie told the Irish Mirror: “We have two types of illnesses running parallel, the flu-type illness and the vomiting norovirus. The two things side-by-side are wiping us out.
“For our P7s, this has landed right on their AQE exams. The poor children have been working for a year and a half, two years in preparation for this test but on Saturday morning it all kicked off and a number of children didn’t sit their AQE.
We have two types of illnesses running parallel, the flu-type illness and the vomiting norovirus. The two things side-by-side are wiping us out
“It’s very frustrating that parents will send their children back to school despite the guidance we have given to please exclude for 48hours – we had kids in school who we know were sick last night and their parents sent them back this morning.”
Top tips for parents for protecting kids from winter bugs
1. Make sure kids wash their hands properly
This prevents the spread of bugs like Norovirus and Shigella, as well as the common cold.
2. Keep kids away from other poorly children
Colds and coughs are almost unavoidable so this is one solution to protect them.
3. Get kids the free NHS flu vaccine
All children from two years old to the end of primary school are now eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine
4. Wrap asthma sufferers up in a scarf
By wrapping a scarf loosely over your child’s now and mouth this helps prevent airways from becoming inflamed
5. Keep kids’ skin moisturised
This prevents eczema flare ups
6. Avoid woollen clothes
Opt for cotton clothes in the winter as wool can trigger eczema
Other infected schools included Bangor Gramma, Priory Integrated and Victoria Primary.
Meanwhile, Southampton General Hospital in Hampshire confirmed it has closed bays on six wards after an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug.
Staff are warning patients not to come to hospital unless they have been clear of symptoms for 72 hours.
A hospital spokesperson said: “The situation has improved over the last week and we now have bays closed on six wards.”
The situation has improved over the last week and we now have bays closed on six wards
Southampton General Hospital spokesperson
The University Hospital Southampton website states: “The Trust has been under sustained pressure for the past week and currently has a large number of beds closed to new admissions due to norovirus.
“This is affecting the flow of patients out of the emergency department and into the appropriate locations.
“We would like to reassure patients that we are taking a number of steps to address current capacity issues.
“Visitors are encouraged to wash hands carefully with soap and water both before and after visiting a clinical ward area.”
Last week, health officials were called into around 60 schools across the North East of England after an outbreak of norovirus.
While dozens of people were suffering with norovirus–like symptoms after attending a huge Lego event in Bristol last weekend.
How to protect your kids
Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK and is also referred to as “the winter vomiting bug”.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, Clinical Director of Patient.info, emphasises the need to make sure kids wash their hands thoroughly to stop them from catching this contagious and extremely unpleasant bug.
She tells The Sun Online: “Wash, wash and wash again!
“Norovirus is spread via the ‘faecal oral route’, which is just as disgusting as it sounds.
“Germs passed out in an infected person’s poo can be picked up on someone else’s hands, and transferred into their mouths when they touch their mouths or via food.
“So wash your hands thoroughly after going to the loo, before you handle or eat food and after you empty a potty.”
Dr Jarvis also emphasises the need to keep all surfaces clean – and to steer kids clear from others that have been affected.
She adds: “Clean surfaces including toilet handles, taps and door handles regularly with disinfectant.
“And make sure you wash your hands if you’ve been in a public place like a bus or train, where lots of other people have touched surfaces.
“If children in your kids’ circle are affected, steer clear of them until they have been clear of diarrhoea or vomiting for at least 48 hours.”