Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Half of Southampton school staff call in sick with 'flu'

Jason Ashley
Image caption Head teacher Jason Ashley said he had never seen a virus spread so quickly around a school

More than 300 pupils and staff at a secondary school have fallen ill in a suspected outbreak of flu.

Redbridge Community School in Southampton has been shut for at least two days after 56 staff called in sick - about half of the staff employed.

At least a quarter of the school's 1,000 pupils have also been affected.

Public Health England said the most common strain of flu currently in circulation often affects working-age adults and children.

Image caption Half of the staff and at least a quarter of pupils have fallen ill at Redbridge Community School

Head teacher Jason Ashley said the outbreak began on Wednesday when 62 pupils were sent home.

More pupils and teachers succumbed to the "incredibly virulent" strain on Thursday, he said.

Mr Ashley said the decision to close the school on Friday and Monday followed advice from Public Health England, which said the school should be deep-cleaned.

"I've been in the profession for over 24 years and I've never seen a virus spread so quickly around a school. It was like a domino effect," the head teacher said.

He said he had been told the virus had a "five-day impact".

Image caption The school is currently being deep-cleaned

Another school, Portesham Primary in Dorset, closed on Tuesday and was due to reopen on Monday after reporting a "serious outbreak of a 'flu' type virus".

Eight flu outbreaks were reported in schools in the week to 13 January, Public Health England said.

The government said this year's flu strain "particularly affects adults in at-risk groups", including those with asthma and diabetes.

It also said provisional data suggested the latest flu vaccine was "well matched to circulating strains".

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