OUTBREAK: Blackpool school sickness bug is '˜likely' norovirus

Mystery surrounds a sudden spate of sickness at a Blackpool school.

Saturday, 28th October 2017, 6:55 am
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 7:19 pm
Staff and pupils at Highfurlong School are being given bottled water

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Water tested as schoolchildren fall ill with mystery virus

More than 40 people have fallen ill at Highfurlong School, with health experts saying they are ‘likely’ to have contracted a virus such as the highly-contagious norovirus.

However tests are ongoing after reports of bouts of sickness and diarrhoea.

Investigation into the water supply

An investigation into the water supply at the school has so far found no problems but United Utilities has recommended further tests on the internal plumbing at the Blackpool Old Road school are carried out.

The firm said it had ‘found nothing that would cause illness’.

Mark McGivern from the Cumbria and Lancashire Health Protection Team said officials were working with environmental health officers and the council’s health and safety team to ‘investigate the incident and ensure measures are in place to prevent the spread of illness’.

He added: “At this stage it’s not possible to pinpoint exactly the source of the illness and further investigation is ongoing.

Investigation into the water supply

“We have asked the school to report cases of illness to us as part of this investigation to help confirm the cause of the illness.”

A letter purportedly sent to parents by Highfurlong headteacher Rosie Sycamore, which was posted onto social media, requested details of anyone who had fallen ill in recent weeks.It added: “Bottled water will (continue) to be used throughout the school for drinking purposes until further notice.”

The school has around 50 children on its books, according to its last Ofsted report.

Public Health England has received ‘over 40 reports of illness in staff and children over the past few weeks’, which it said ‘isn’t a particularly high number for norovirus’.

Coun Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for resilient communities, said: “With any potential risks to health, it is important that they are investigated fully.

On the basis of the investigation to date, there are no significant concerns over and above those associated with seasonal diarrhoea and vomiting illnesses.”

The school, for pupils with special educational needs, shares an entrance with Aspire Academy, where pupils are currently on their half-term break, after moving into its new £14m premises in November 2015.

John Topping, spokesman for the Fylde Coast Academy Trust (FCAT), which runs Aspire, said staff working over the holiday have been advised to drink bottled water ‘as a safety precaution’.

Nobody at Highfurlong responded to requests for a comment.

Public Health England said people with signs of norovirus, like vomiting and diarrhoea , should stay away from school or work until they have been symptom free for 48 hours.