Risk of school outbreaks as children from E. coli-hit nursery start P1

Children from Meadowpark Pear Tree Nursery were allowed to start primary school despite potentially carrying the infection.

Children from E. coli-hit nursery in NHS Lothian allowed to start primary one, ‘risking school outbreak’ iStock

Children from a nursery forced to close due to an ongoing outbreak of E. coli started primary one classes at a number of schools before being told to isolate at home, despite potentially being infected.

Four nurseries in East Lothian have shut after more cases of illness were identified.

Meadowpark Pear Tree Nursery was closed as a “precautionary measure” on Friday, August 12.

The following week, children from the nursery transitioned to several schools in the area, starting primary one on Wednesday, August 17.

View of E. coli bacterium growing in petri dish seen through magnifying glass.iStock

Parents and guardians took their children to school for three days before NHS Lothian issued a letter on Friday asking all youngsters and staff to stay at home and submit two different stool samples to ensure they are not carrying the infection.

“Hundreds were put at risk,” a concerned parent told STV News.

“If any of them do have E. coli they’ll have to close P1 for each school and hundreds of them might have to be off school while they process the enormous backlog of stool samples.”

NHS Lothian’s letter said tests would take up to a week to process and that an “exclusion order” would be sent out by post.

However as of Wednesday, parents have said they are still to receive any further letters.

NHS Lothian originally confirmed 28 cases of the infection with some children admitted to hospital for treatment.

That number is now in excess of 30.

School nurseries also started their new term and potentially affected children attended without being excluded.

After receiving the notice on Friday, worried parents hurried to their local GP to pick up sample containers before the surgery closed for the weekend.

“It caused a mad scrabble to get to the GP to get sample tube,” a parent told STV News.

The outbreak was first identified at Church Street Pear Tree Nursery in Haddington with NHS Lothian forming an Incident Management Team (IMT) working with partner agencies including East Lothian Council and Public Health Scotland.

On Friday, August 19, chair of the IMT, Dr Richard Othieno said the health board had provided guidelines for parents and carers and explained that it was “vital for siblings or those children leaving nursery, taking up a new nursery place and starting school for the first time to remain at home until their exclusion period is complete” if they have been in contact with someone with E. coli or any other vomiting bug.

Concerned parents whose children had been at Meadowpark Pear Tree Nursery told STV News that this was the first time they had been told their kids should not go to school despite having started that week.

So far, medics have been unable to identify a specific source of the E. coli, but “advanced microbiological testing” is ongoing to determine the strain of the infection and any links.

The four nurseries that were forced to close are Church Road Pear Tree Nursery, West Road Pear Tree Nursery, Meadowpark Pear Tree Nursery and Musselburgh Private Nursery.

NHS Lothian was asked for a statement. STV News was told the IMT was due to meet this week but no update has been issued.

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