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Health / Winter vomiting bug closes two schools

SHETLAND Islands Council has confirmed that two local schools have stayed closed today (Thursday) due to an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug.

While a one day closure of the primary department of Whalsay School was deemed sufficient, the Dunrossness Primary School will stay closed for a second day and will only reopen on Monday morning.

Director of children’s services Helen Budge said quite a large number of pupils, teachers and other staff were affected by the outbreak of norovirus in Dunrossness.

“There is a large number of pupils and staff members off at the primary department in Whalsay, so the head teacher took the decision to close the department and I am absolutely fully supportive of that decision,” she said.

Budge added that her department at Hayfield was keeping a close eye on the situation.

Meanwhile consultant in public health medicine, Dr Susan Laidlaw, said NHS Shetland had been notified of significant numbers of children and staff with diarrhoea and vomiting from both the Dunrossness and Whalsay schools.

“We have given the schools advice on managing the situation including re-enforcing hand washing and the ‘48 hour rule’,” she said.

“We have not advised closure of the schools on public health grounds, but an individual school may need to make the decision to close due to staffing issues.”

The health board advised that the two most effective ways to stop the spread of norovirus and similar viral infections are hand washing and staying at home while ill and for 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped.

Children should not be back in school or nursery until at least 48 hours after the diarrhoea and/or vomiting has stopped.  And they should also stay away from events such as parties, sports clubs and competitions and other after school activities and clubs.

Dr Laidlaw added: “Viruses spread just as easily in community and social settings as in school, often more easily.

“Although it can be difficult to achieve, it is crucial to keep children away from settings such as parties and clubs as well as school, until they are 48 hours symptom free if we want to try and stop the spread of the infection.”

There is further information on norovirus on the NHS Inform website: www.nhsinform.scot/norovirus. There is also advice and an NHS Shetland leaflet for parents available on the Healthy Shetland website: www.healthyshetland.com/news.