THE head teacher of a New Forest primary school is staying at home as a “precautionary measure” against coronavirus after returning from a half-term trip to northern Italy.
Kate Crawford, the head of Milford Primary School, has told parents that although she did not visit any of the towns currently affected by the virus, she decided not to return to work at the Lymington Road school this week.
Public Health England is currently advising schools that they do not need to close in such circumstances.
Italy has reported more than 300 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the highest number outside Asia.
The cases are heavily concentrated in the Lombardy region where 212 infections have been confirmed. On Tuesday Italian authorities confirmed that 12 people have so far died from the virus in the country.
The Foreign Office is currently advising against all but essential travel to 10 small towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto, which are currently in isolation due to the outbreak.
In a message to parents, staff and volunteers on Wednesday morning, Ms Crawford and the school’s chairman of trustees, Clive Bryant, said they believed it was important to update families with the latest advice on coronavirus and the impacts on the school.
The statement said: “Having returned from northern Italy last week, Kate Crawford has made the choice to remain at home this week.
“It is important to point out that she did not visit any of the towns currently affected by the virus and that this is purely a precautionary measure.”
The school said it had also been made aware of a family who had visited northern Italy during half-term, and following advice they had also chosen to remain at home as a precaution.
The message concluded: “The leadership team and governors continue to be in communication regarding this issue and as we continue to monitor advice from Public Health England, we will keep you up to date with any developments affecting the school.”
Hampshire County Council’s director of public health, Simon Bryant, said: “In relation to the coronavirus, the county council has asked schools and other educational settings in Hampshire to follow the information and guidance from Public Health England (PHE) which is being updated regularly.
“Any school concerned about a student who may meet the criteria for taking action, after returning from travel to an affected area, including from certain parts of Italy, is advised to contact their local PHE health protection team for advice.”
The main signs of the coronavirus infection are fever and a cough as well as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
The risk of infection can be reduced through frequent handwashing with soap or gel and avoiding close contact with people who are ill. People are also advised not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
Catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, binning it and washing your hands can minimise the risk of spreading disease.
Those experiencing symptoms after travelling from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days are advised to stay indoors and call the NHS 111 phone service, even if symptoms are mild.
Those returning from Iran, lockdown areas in northern Italy, special care zones in South Korea, and Hubei province in China since 19th February should call NHS 111, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people even if no symptoms are present.
This article was amended on 26th February 2020 to include an update from Hampshire County Council