What we have here is failure to communicate: UK school criticized over handling of hepatitis A case

A Weymouth school has been criticized over its handling of a situation when a child contracted hepatitis A.

CoolHandLukeSt Andrews Primary School in Preston wrote to parents on November 26 after a pupil was found to have the infectious illness.

It is believed the child contracted the illness while abroad and did not return to school after falling ill.

But parents claim they were not told this and the letter raised concerns rather than allaying fears.

One parent, who does not wish to be named, said: “I just think that we are being kept in the dark and it’s being brushed under the carpet.

“It seems as though nothing is happening. We know absolutely nothing except that somebody at the school has hepatitis A, and that’s mainly the problem.”

Another said: “It may seem trivial to complain but communication at the school is poor and the letter was very badly worded.

“All it did was raise concerns rather than giving the full facts. It was just badly handled.”

The letter, seen by the Echo, confirms a single case of hepatitis A and lists information from Wessex Public Health England Centre about symptoms, which include fever, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Hepatitis A can cause liver inflammation leading to jaundice and, in extreme cases, liver failure.

A mum criticised the advice on symptoms, saying it was so general ‘it could be anything’ and it is worrying parents.

She said: “By not giving parents enough information, it’s making us anxious.

“Two parents say they haven’t even received the letter.

“There are five children off school from illness in my son’s class and my son is experiencing abdominal pain and vomiting, but we are not sure if it’s the tail end of a bug or if it’s more serious.

“One other parent is taking their child to the doctor to see what’s going on, and another said the children need to be vaccinated.

“We need to know what the school is doing to minimise the risks.”

Vanessa Lucas, headteacher at St Andrew’s Primary School, said: “No-one has said a word to us at the school. Not all parents would receive the letter because it’s in one end of the school and it’s one child.

“The child was ill when they came back from abroad and the parents kept them off school, so it’s just a precaution.”

Cllr Francis Drake, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s spokesman for public health, said: “I would hope that the school is doing its utmost to make sure the situation doesn’t get any worse.

“If anybody thinks they have symptoms they should go to their doctor immediately and get advice.”