Two hundred Vale of Leven pupils to be inoculated against infection
St Mary’s PS in Bank Street, Alexandria, where 200 pupils are to be inoculated against infection on Friday.
By Bill Heaney
Nearly 200 pupils and staff at a Vale of Leven primary school are to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A after a child contracted the illness.
Parents of pupils at St Mary’s primary in Bank Street, Alexandria, have been notified but the source of the infection is unknown.
MSP Jackie Baillie said: “The news that a pupil at St Mary’s Primary school in Alexandria has contracted Hepatitis A is of course deeply concerning. While, at present, this is an isolated case, action must be taken quickly to ensure that no other pupils become ill. This means not only carrying out emergency vaccinations, as the NHS is already doing, but trying to identify the source of the infection.
“It is also important to ensure that the standards of sanitation, cleanliness and food hygiene within the school are reviewed and education is provided for how best to prevent Hepatitis A from spreading in the home.
“I am confident that St Mary’s is doing everything they can to protect their pupils and I wish the pupil concerned a full and speedy recovery.”
No one at West Dunbartonshire Council would comment to The Democrat on whether there was any connection between this infection and the one which has caused two deaths this week and left another patient seriously ill at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow.
It has been established that the infection there is related to pigeon droppings, the feral birds having got into the £843 million showpiece hospital through defective air ducts and heating vents.
St Mary’s is just 100 yards away from Bonhill Bridge where pigeons roosting there under the bridge and on the roofs of houses in the Riverside Estate nearby have been reported to the council as a nuisance and a public health hazard.
There is also a railway bridge under which a fair number of pigeons roost in Bank Street itself.
Cllr Jim Bollan responded to the news: “Thanks for sharing this. Even though this school is in the Leven Ward which I represent The Democrat has been the first to share this issue with me. Openness and transparency are not in good health in WDC.”
A top level inquiry is now going on at the QE University Hospital on Glasgow’s South side, which takes patients from across West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the vaccination of the children was a precautionary measure and the likelihood of the St Mary’s pupils and teachers becoming unwell due to the infection was low.
The Health Board, headed up by Chairman John Brown and CEO Jane Grant, added that symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and nausea.
Pigeons roost under Bonhill Bridge and at Riverside Estate in Alexandria.
Hepatitis A can also sometimes lead to yellowing of the skin and eyes – jaundice – due to inflammation of the liver.
Public health consultant Dr Gillian Penrice told BBC Scotland: “In children, the infection is often very mild and may cause no symptoms at all.
“This means that children can be carrying Hepatitis A and pass it on to adults, who are more at risk of complications.
“Infection with Hepatitis A can be caused by consuming contaminated food or water.
“The virus can also spread from someone with the infection to others in the same environment, for example if they share toilets, or by eating food touched by a person with the infection.”
The vaccination programme follows a review by the Health Board public health team, together with Health Protection Scotland and West Dunbartonshire Council.
Dr Penrice added: “Our investigations have not identified a suspected source of the infection.
“Therefore, as a precaution, we are recommending a Hepatitis A vaccination for all primary school children who attend.
“The vaccine reduces the risk of being infected after being in contact with someone who has the infection.”
A Q&A drop-in session has been organised at the school for concerned parents on Tuesday, from 15:00 to 16:00, and a vaccination session will take place in on Friday.
Anyone who develops any symptoms is asked to contact their GP or, if it is out-of-hours, call NHS 24 on 111.
Editor’s note – West Dunbartonshire Council refuse to speak to The Democrat, even in cases like this to put the public’s mind at rest. We will doubtless be accused of scaremongering by mentioning the possible connection between the pigeon droppings infection at the QE Hospital and this one at St Mary’s PS, but there can be little doubt that generally speaking these pigeons are a health hazard and should be allowed nowhere near hospitals or schools. The Council denies us the privilege under Human Rights law to ask questions through their communications department without first registering with IPSO, a little known organisation which replaced the Press Council when that lame duck organisation was exposed as unfit for purpose by the Leveson Inquiry.