Welcome to Heads Up this week.
Hello to all of you. We are soon entering the period of festive cheer so I will get this out of the way now and hope that we can all stay healthy in the coming weeks.
I know that several schools have had to close recently due to outbreaks of Norovirus. Firstly, I hope all of you who were affected are feeling better. It’s a horrible, debilitating illness although, thankfully, it does tend to pass relatively quickly.
Could we all ensure that our schools stick to the following recommendations from Public Health, please? We’ll do our best to keep our children, and our colleagues, healthy for Christmas.
Norovirus, also known as “winter vomiting disease”, commonly occurs in the winter months, and causes vomiting and diarrhoea. The symptoms usually last between 12 and 60 hours and tend to start with the sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and diarrhoea.
Good hygiene, including thorough hand washing, especially after toilet visits and before eating, will help reduce the spread of infection. Norovirus can contaminate the hands of children and staff if not adequately washed, and the environment is easily contaminated if a child has been unwell, as virus particles can remain in the air and settle in the environment.
If a child does become unwell in your nursery or school, it is important to clean up spillages and the surrounding environment promptly, and make sure that cleaning frequency is increased. All areas should be cleaned initially with a detergent and water, followed by a chlorine-based agent. Pay attention to surfaces that are frequently touched, e.g. tabletops, taps and sinks, toilet handles and light switches. Make sure toilets are clean.
It is important that hands are washed correctly. Liquid soap should be used and not bar soap, which increases the risk of cross contamination. Commercial products to clean hands are currently being marketed directly to schools and nurseries. These products are similar to hand decontaminants used in hospitals. Some are being sold as a replacement for hand washing. Please be aware that following visits to the toilet, or any other activity where hands may be physically soiled, hand washing with soap and water is the only recommended method of cleaning hands.
If your nursery or school experiences an outbreak, i.e. two or more cases of diarrhoea and/or vomiting, please contact Public Health England on 0344 2253560 option 2, option 1 for advice. In addition to the hygiene and cleaning measures outlined above, it is important that all staff and children with symptoms stay at home until 48 hours after their symptoms stop.
As I say, we’ll be looking for more festive cheer and good news in the coming weeks. If your school is doing something out of the ordinary for Christmas, why not share that with us through the Heads Up inbox? It would be great to read some of the stories.
With best wishes
Assistant Director for Education Services