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School swept by face rash virus.

Byline: By Liz Hands

Pupils and staff at a Northumberland first school have been struck down with a skin infection called Slapped Cheek Syndrome.

The disease, which has swept through Prudhoe West First School in the Tyne Valley, shows as a deep red rash on the face ( which looks like a slap mark.

It is highly infectious and spreads rapidly through schools and nurseries once one child contracts it ( through coughs, sneezes and close contact.

Yesterday, headteacher Alan Keenleyside said: "It's gone right through the whole school. Not one class has been unaffected and I've had five members of staff come down with it as well.

"Since the school came back from half term at the end of October, we've had 317 absences and I would say a quarter of those are through Slapped Cheek Syndrome." Although, Mr Keenleyside added that those figures did not give a true picture of the problem as many staff and pupils had not taken time off after contracting the condition.

Prudhoe West has 238 pupils and 43 members of staff.

"Staff have still been teaching, so disruption has been kept to a minimum," said Mr Keenleyside.

His school has never had a problem with Slapped Cheek Syndrome in the past, so had to contact local GPs for advice.

"Initially, we were told conflicting things," he added.

"At one surgery, they said that children should be kept off school, but at another, they said there was no need.

"Parents were naturally concerned and asking us what they should do, so we contacted NHS direct.

"They told us as long as children weren't feeling unwell, they could come to school because, by the time the rash appears, the disease is no longer infectious."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 17, 2005
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