The headteacher of a Birmingham school at the centre of England’s biggest swine flu outbreak has attacked the Health Protection Agency (HPA) for being slow to react.
Chris Smith, who runs Welford Primary School, in Handsworth, said he raised the alarm when 20 children in one class became ill on a Monday, but it took health officials four days to react.
The HPA did not confirm swine flu until Thursday May 21, and then shut down the school for over a week.
But nearly 200 pupils, teachers and relatives directly linked to the school went on to be infected by the H1N1 virus, which then spread further through the inner city suburb.
It comes after criticisms of the HPA’s confusing policies to treat pupils from a Birmingham public health director Jacky Chambers.
Mr Smith was said that on Monday May 18, parents were telling teachers that their children were showing flu-like symptoms of a high temperature and sickness.
“The HPA was contacted and, although there was phone contact every day, no-one came out until Thursday to select people for testing,” said Mr Smith.
“The school wondered why it took till Thursday to get a confirmed case. I said to a scrutiny committee that process needs to be faster.”
Welford was one of the first outbreaks of swine flu in Birmingham and the country, but the city has since had more than 2,582 victims, including six-year-old Sameerah Ahmad, from Edgbaston, who suffered with a rare disorder of the small instestine but died after contracting the virus at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
A spokesman for the HPA responded to the headteacher’s claims by saying the organisation “responded immediately” to calls from Welford School.
But he added that children’s symptoms had suggested different illnesses to swine flu.
Worcestershire health chiefs announced 11 pharmacies would now act as antiviral collection points for patients diagnosed with swine flu.