Pupils given antibiotics at Thornhill school after diptheria outbreak

PUPILS at a Rotherham primary school have been given antibiotics for diphtheria bacteria after a pupil at the school was confirmed to have had the infection. 

About 80 in Years 1 and 2 were tested yesterday and older children are having tests today after their fellow pupil, who has since recovered, fell ill.

A further two pupils have come into contact with the bacteria that can cause diphtheria, test showed.

Year 1 and 2 children have been given antibiotics to rule out any illness.

Their parents/guardians have been informed and the pupils are being treated and are well, Public Health England said.

One mum who contacted the Advertiser said she felt more information should have been given to parents and the wider community sooner.

“I think they should have made people aware because diptheria is highly contagious, she said.

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that mainly affects the nose and throat and, sometimes, the skin. 

It can cause symptoms including a sore throat, high temperature, a thick, grey-white coating at the back of the throat and, in severe cases, breathing difficulties. 

Consultant in Health Protection with Public Health England, Dr Nachi Arunachalam, said any risk to pupils and staff at the school was low and close and prolonged contact with someone who has diphtheria infection is needed for it to be passed on.

Dr Arunachalam said: “As a precautionary measure following the recent results of testing in this age group, children in the two school years who are likely to have closest contact with the initial case, will now be given a prescription for antibiotics (treatment to prevent the infection). 

“It’s important that these children take the treatment, even if they have been tested and had a negative test result already, as it will help prevent them developing diphtheria, which can be serious, in the future. 

“As a further precaution, we will also now be extending screening (testing) to the whole of the school, including staff.”

Dr Arunachalam said people could carry the bacteria which causes diphtheria in their nose or throat without having any symptoms of being ill. 

This bacteria can easily be treated with a course of antibiotics to prevent it from causing illness.

“The best way to protect against diphtheria is vaccination and we will also be arranging for children at the school to be offered an additional booster vaccination early in the summer term,” Dr Arunachalam added. 

“We realise this kind of situation can be worrying for parents and staff and we want to reassure everyone that the risks are low and the planned actions we are taking at the school will lower them even further.”

Anyone who has any concerns about symptoms they or their child may have should contact their GP or NHS 111 for further information and advice.