SARS safety measures at Suffolk school

STUDENTS at a leading Ipswich independent school who travel home to killer flu-hit Asia for the holidays will face a period of incubation on their return.

STUDENTS at a leading Ipswich independent school who travel home to killer flu-hit Asia for the holidays will face a period of incubation on their return.

St Joseph's College said the measure was a "sensible precaution" in case any of the pupils come into contact with people with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which has already claimed more than 140 lives.

About 85 of the 600 students at the school at Birkfield, Belstead Road, are boarders and of these around 20 are from Asia.

It is not known how many of these are likely to have returned home to the Far East for Easter.

In a letter to parents, head teacher Sian Grant said the measures for the children had been put in place after advice from the World Health Organisation, the School of Tropical Medicine and the Public Health Office.

She said those pupils who did travel to the Far East should return early for a ten-day incubation period, which will end before the beginning of the new term.

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The medical officer will examine those overseas pupils and the supervising staff in quarantine each morning.

Overseas pupils would also be medically examined at the departing airport and the airport of arrival.

Mrs Grant said any day pupils and their families who travelled to the Far East or who had been in contact with anyone who had visited the area recently had been asked to contact the college before the start of term.

An appointment would then be made for them to be medically examined on Tuesday April 22.

A spokeswoman for the college said the aim was to take all reasonable care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of pupils and staff and to reassure parents that the school was aware of the situation and taking responsible action.

Felixstowe International College, which has around 50 Korean students, said its pupils were not returning home to the Far East for Easter and were staying to do a course.

But a dozen boarders at independent Hethersett Old Hall School for girls, near Norwich, may face quarantine after returning from Hong Kong after Easter. Headmistress Janet Mark said: "We can separate them from the main body of the school. Some of our boarding facilities can be quite self-contained and they would not be in contact with the rest of the school population."

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the SARS illness has infected at least 3,000 people worldwide, and killed at least 140.

German biotechnology company Artus has now developed a new high-speed test for SARS which it claims can detect the presence of the virus in two hours, whereas traditional tests for antibodies take more than 10 days.

Latest studies strongly suggest that a new strain of Corona virus, which normally causes the common cold, could be to blame and some experts believe it could become a perennial feature of life in Asia and North America.


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