A Solihull primary school is at the centre of a health scare after four children were diagnosed with hepatitis A.
The four cases have all occurred at St Alphege Church of England Infant School in New Road, Solihull. They were officially confirmed by the Health Protection Agency, which is advising the school on control measures in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading.
Parents of children at the school have been informed and all staff and pupils are being offered vaccination against hepatitis A as a precautionary measure.
The Health Protection Agency is working with Solihull Care Trust and Solihull Council in trying to manage the outbreak.
The original source of the infection is not known but the Agency said it remained vigilant to any other cases arising. No one at St Alphege CE Infants was available for comment yesterday, with calls being referred to the Health Protection Agency.
But one parent, who did not want to be named, said: “This is a Third World virus spread by poor hygiene, not something you would expect in our schools.”
He claimed that the first case among Year 2 pupils at the school was in February but said parents had not been notified until a number of other children had also gone to hospital with the virus.
“The two-month delay in acting has potentially put 250 families at risk. Many would have been away over the Easter break mixing with other children,” the parent added.
The Health Protection Agency said that although hepatitis A does occur in the UK, it is more common in countries where sanitation and sewage disposal can be poor, particularly Africa, northern and southern Asia, Central America and southern and eastern Europe.
Dr Roger Gajraj, consultant for the HPA in the West Midlands, said: “Although outbreaks still occur, hepatitis A infection has become less common in the UK nowadays with a high proportion of cases acquired during overseas travel. Symptoms tend to be quite mild in children but more serious in adults.Symptoms of the infection include pale stools, dark urine, loss of appetite and nausea and vomiting through to more severe symptoms such as liver inflammation or jaundice (yellow-looking skin) and, in very rare cases, liver failure.
“The infection is spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A. It is easily prevented by good hygiene.”
The incubation period, from first coming into contact with the virus to developing the infection, is usually between two and six weeks. It is usually a short-term infection. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A, with most people recovering completely within a couple of months.
People with the virus are advised to rest and avoid fatty foods if they feel sick, and try to eat and drink a normal healthy diet. They should also avoid all alcohol while ill as the liver will be inflamed.