Infection prevention and control services across Warrington, Halton and St Helens are currently dealing with an increase in the number of schools reporting flu like illnesses. 

A total of 30 schools across the three local authority areas have reported outbreaks of flu like illness, with several being confirmed as outbreaks of Influenza A. Some schools have reported pupil absence rates of up to 40% of their pupil intake.

Parents are advised to keep children who are poorly at home, until their symptoms have resolved, to prevent further spread of flu within the school. Most children will recover after a few days of rest, hydration and over-the-counter medicines when required, but flu can be very unpleasant for some children as they can develop more serious complications.

Flu can also be serious for people with long-term health conditions, such as COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, diabetes, heart, kidney or liver disease, neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis (MS). People with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of flu developing into something more serious that could result in admission to hospital.

All primary school children, in reception through to year 6, are offered the free flu vaccine. The vaccine is a painless nasal spray. Many school children will have had the vaccine already, with the rest scheduled to have it over the next couple of weeks. It is important that you protect your child by saying yes to the vaccine when consent forms are provided by the school. It will not only help to protect your child against flu, it will help stop the spread of the virus to more vulnerable people, such as grandparents, or people with long-term health conditions.

If you’ve missed the vaccination in your school, please get in touch with the school nurses, as catch up sessions may be available locally. Alternatively, contact your GP practice to arrange an appointment.

A public health representative, on behalf of all three local authority teams, said: “We’re seeing an unusual number of outbreaks of flu like symptoms in our schools. It’s important that any child who is poorly stays off school to help stop the spread of the virus. If your child is particularly poorly you can visit your local pharmacy, contact your GP, or call NHS 111, for advice.

“Flu can be prevented – ensuring good hand hygiene by thorough hand washing, using tissues, and then disposing of them straight away, really helps to minimise the spread of infection. But the best way to prevent flu is to have the vaccine.

“Many people can get the vaccine for free, primary school aged children will be offered the vaccine in school. Children aged 2 and 3, pregnant women, people over 65 and anyone with a relevant long-term condition can get the vaccine for free, at their local pharmacy or GP practice.

“It’s unusually early to see such a high level of flu like symptoms, so please make sure you protect yourself and others as we head into winter and the festive period.”