Hepatitis alert at private school as boy tests positive for virus

UP TO 60 families have been warned their children are at risk from hepatitis A after a boy at a private school sports camp was diagnosed with the infection.

Children who took part in the ten-day camp in Edinburgh with the boy, who is from Uganda, have been warned to look out for the symptoms of the virus.

The 14-year-old attended the rugby event at boys boarding school Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh earlier this month.

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After leaving the camp, he was diagnosed while in the Highlands, where he was understood to have been visiting his grandparents.

NHS Highland issued warnings to families as a precaution, saying the risk to other youngsters was minimal.

The boy was not a pupil at the fee-paying school and many of the other children at the camp were also not pupils.

A school spokeswoman said: "The boy was from Uganda at a camp in the summer holidays.

"He was diagnosed with hepatitis A after having been at the school, but it is thought it was contracted abroad.

"As a preventative measure, boys and girls who were here at the same time as him have been contacted.

"Some of our pupils would have been at the camp, as well as many from outside the school."

Health officials have contacted all the families of youngsters who were at the camp, from 3 to 13 August and provided information about the illness and relevant hygiene precautions.

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Hepatitis A is usually a mild illness in children, but it can spread to those more vulnerable. As it is more than 14 days since the children were potentially exposed to the infection, vaccination is not advised by health bodies, except for those with specific medical conditions such as chronic liver disease or immunity disorders.

A statement from the school said: "Parents of children who have such a condition have been advised to contact the public health department in Inverness at their earliest convenience. The incubation period for hepatitis A infection can be as long as six weeks, and parents have been advised to remain aware of developing symptoms and contact their primary care doctor or general practitioner should they be at all concerned."

The symptoms of hepatitis A include loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pains and jaundice.

Diagnoses of the infection are not common in the UK; it is more likely to be contracted in nations with poor sanitation.

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. Rarely, it can cause life-threatening liver damage, but most sufferers are not affected in the long term.

There is no specific treatment for the virus, but the majority of people fully recover within weeks.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are an estimated 1.5 million new cases of illness due to hepatitis A each year worldwide.

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