A Birmingham school has had an outbreak of the Hepitatis A infection, it has been revealed.
Two pupils at Arena Academy in Great Barr have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A – an unpleasant liver infection which is spread by faeces and is uncommon in the UK.
Public Health England said it was working with the Beeches Road school to reduce the risk of the disease spreading and examine whether the two cases are linked.
A source close to the school claimed some parents have withdrawn their children amid fears of catching the infectious disease, while cleaners in masks have been seen.
The parent, who did not wish to be named, told BirminghamLive: “They are still allowing the pupils to be there but parents are taking there children out of school.
“I have been informed that there are people walking about the school in masks cleaning whilst the kids are there. I really don’t think this is appropriate.”
The school, which sent letters to parents about the situation, has been advised to carry out a ‘stringent cleaning regime’ with staff emphasising the importance of hygiene to the pupils, Public Health England said.
Hepatitis A, which is caused by a virus, is spread by poor sanitation and symptoms can include sickness, upset stomachs and nausea.
Most children make a full recovery within a couple of months and though unpleasant, it is not usually serious.
However the NHS says in rare cases it can be deadly if the liver stops functioning properly.
What did Public Health England say?
A statement from Public Health England read: “We are working with Arena Academy in the Perry Beeches area of Birmingham, following two confirmed cases of Hepatitis A in pupils.
“Tests are being undertaken to check if the two cases of hepatitis A may be linked. The risk of infection is low, but members of PHE West Midlands Health Protection Team are working closely with the school to reduce the risk of further transmission.
“As a result, the school is introducing an enhanced cleaning regime and staff members will be emphasising the importance of good hand hygiene, especially after visiting the toilet and before eating.
“Parents have been informed of the situation by letter.
“PHE is assessing if any members of the school should receive a vaccine to help protect against hepatitis A.
What is the school doing?
The school has sent letters to inform parents of the outbreak. It is also working closely with Public Health England to reduce the risk of other pupils becoming infected.
Dr Roger Gajraj, consultant with PHE West Midlands Health Protection Team, said: “We have advised the school to put in place a stringent cleaning regime and for staff to emphasise the importance of good hand hygiene to all pupils.
“People travelling abroad to countries where hepatitis A is more common, can become infected through consumption of contaminated food or water.
“The school is working closely with PHE West Midlands to identify the risk to pupils and staff and anyone thought to be at risk of infection will be offered a Hepatitis A vaccination.”
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus that’s spread in the faeces of an infected person.
Hepatitis A can be unpleasant, but it’s not usually serious and most people make a full recovery within a couple of months. Some people, particularly young children, may not have any symptoms.
But hepatitis A can occasionally last for many months and, in rare cases, it can be life threatening if it leads to liver failure.
A hepatitis A vaccine is available for people at high risk of infection.
Dr Gajraj added: “Usually the disease is self-limiting and most children who catch it have a mild illness, however some individuals may become more seriously ill if they have other existing medical problems.
“Symptoms may range from virtually nothing (silent infection) to nausea, vomiting, tummy upsets and later dark urine and pale grey poo.
“It is spread by contact with contaminated surfaces and contaminated hands, so washing hands properly before eating and particularly after using the toilet is the most important way to prevent infection.”
What are the symptoms of hepatitis A?
The symptoms of hepatitis A develop, on average, around 4 weeks after becoming infected, although not everyone will get them.
Symptoms can include:
- feeling tired and generally unwell
- joint and muscle pain
- a raised temperature
- loss of appetite
- feeling or being sick
- pain in the upper right part of your tummy
- yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- dark pee and pale poo
- itchy skin
The symptoms will usually pass within a couple of months.
How you can catch hepatitis A?
The NHS says Hepatitis A is most widespread in parts of the world where standards of sanitation and food hygiene are generally poor, such as parts of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, the Middle East, and Central and South America.
You can get the infection from:
- eating food prepared by someone with the infection who has not washed their hands properly or washed them in water contaminated with sewage
- drinking contaminated water, including ice cubes
- eating raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated water
- close contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- less commonly, having sex with someone with hepatitis A (this is particularly a risk for men who have sex with men) or injecting drugs using contaminated equipment
Someone with hepatitis A is most infectious from around two weeks before symptoms appear until about a week after symptoms first develop.