ANOTHER North East school has been hit by swine flu fears after an unconfirmed case of the virus among its pupils.
The headteacher of Gosforth East Middle School, in Newcastle, has sent letters to 465 pupils after the parents of a 10-year-old boy telephoned the school to inform them of the illness.
Senior staff immediately organised a meeting to discuss what they should do and consulted the Health Protection Agency and local health services.
Pupils have been told to attend school as normal, as the Year Five pupil – believed to be from the Dinnington area – stays at home.
Headteacher Geoff Oliver said: "On Tuesday, we were informed that we have a pupil absent from school with an unconfirmed case of swine flu.
"The most important advice we have been given is that parents of children who have signs and symptoms of swine flu are asked to keep their children away from school until they have recovered and are free of symptoms.
"If children are prescribed antiviral drugs for treatment, they should also stay at home until they have finished the course.
This is to avoid spreading the infection as much as possible."
Alex Sharpe, 37, of Gosforth, whose two sons Andrew and Adam attend the school, said: "I think everyone should be given the vaccination, as I feel prevention is better than cure.
"The school has handled the situation very professionally as they have informed everyone by sending out letters and giving advice."
The number of UK deaths linked to swine flu is now 17.
Meanwhile, a swine flu vaccine may be further away than has been claimed, the head of the World Health Organisation indicated today.
WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan told the Guardian: "There’s no vaccine. One should be available soon, in August. But having a vaccine available is not the same as having a vaccine that has been proven safe.
"Clinical trial data will not be available for another two to three months."
Current advice for people who think they have swine flu is:
Stay at home, go online and check symptoms on www.nhs.uk or call the swine flu information line on (0800) 151 3513.
If still concerned, people should then call their GP, who will make an assessment and may suggest a course of antiviral treatment, particularly for those with underlying health problems and high-risk groups such as those over 65, children under five and pregnant women. If swine flu is confirmed, the GP will create an authorisation voucher for the patient.
People should nominate a healthy friend or relative who can collect the authorisation voucher from the GP surgery and take it to an antiviral collection point to pick up the treatment.
People should not go to A&E or their GP surgery if they suspect they have swine flu, unless they are advised to do so by a healthcare professional.