Classes on hold at KZN school as three pupils test positive for H1N1 virus
A primary school in Pietermaritzburg has suspended lessons to conduct a "deep sanitisation" of its classrooms following confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus.
Deccan Road Primary School governing body chair advocate Rumen Maistry said on Wednesday that three children had tested positive for the virus.
A nine-year-old grade 3 pupil, Giselle Chetty, died last week following flu-like symptoms.
"At this stage, we have not received official confirmation on the cause of her death," Maistry said.
Pupils are being housed in another part of the school while the sanitisation takes place.
Maistry said social media reports that the school had shut down for three days were incorrect.
"Yesterday we had a three-hour meeting with the municipal environmental inspectorate and the provincial health department.
"They informed us that they have no mandate to shut down the school. Furthermore, the department of education told us that they have no mandate to shut down the school.
"We then took the initiative to address the panic around this issue. So we arranged a company to sanitise the ablution facilities and the air-conditioning units.
"We also got a chemical company to provide chemicals for our cleaners to sanitise the desks in all the classrooms," Maistry explained.
The municipal environmental inspectorate advised the school that the chemicals could not be used in close proximity to the children.
"Although these chemicals are SABS-approved, we need to ensure that these chemicals are not used near children.
"The children cannot be in the classroom. So basically, we sent a notice to parents that we are now sanitising over the next 72 hours and we have been advised that children cannot be in the classroom."
"We are keeping them at one end of the school while we clean the classrooms."
Maistry said following the news of the death of Giselle Chetty, only 350 pupils out of 1,097 have attended school since Monday.
"We are not telling parents to keep their children at home but we have informed them that teaching cannot go on as most children are at home. The principal and teachers have drawn up a catch-up plan to address the lesson time that has been lost," he said.
Maistry said counselling will be offered to the schoolgirl's classmates when teaching resumed. The department of health will also be presenting a workshop on practicing good hygiene such as washing hands and covering mouths when coughing and sneezing.
"We are being proactive. We will put hand sanitisers in all classrooms," he said.
Meanwhile Merchiston Preparatory School in Pietermaritzburg confirmed one case of H1N1. In a letter to the parents, the school advised parents not to send their sons to school if they displayed flu-like symptoms.
Last month the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said there was no influenza outbreak in the country.
"The 2019 SA influenza season, which started towards the end of April, is ongoing. Transmission of influenza has reached high levels in the viral watch programme.
However, the increase in influenza cases is a normal expected increase that takes place in winter," said the NICD in a statement.
"To date the majority, 357 of 390, which is 92% of influenza-positive samples for this season, detected by three surveillance programmes, have been identified as influenza A (H3N2)," said the NICD statement.
The institute noted several recent media reports of outbreaks of "so-called swine flu in schools".
The NICD added: "The term 'swine flu' is an incorrect term as this refers to a disease of pigs. This term is sometimes incorrectly used to refer to the influenza A (H1N1 pdm09 influenza sub type) which emerged in 2009."
"This subtype of influenza is normal seasonal influenza strain and behaves like any other type of influenza," it said.
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