A five-year-old girl has become the latest victim of the bacterial infection Strep A which has now claimed the lives of nine children.
The child became severely ill last week and was treated at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
Black Mountain Primary School, which has sent a letter to parents, spoke of its “tragic loss” and said “the thoughts of the entire school are with the pupil’s family and friends at this difficult time”.
It said in a statement: “To assist in supporting our pupils and staff at this sad time, additional trained staff from the Education Authority Critical Incident Response Team have been engaged and will be providing support to the school.
“A letter has been sent by the school to parents, informing them of our tragic loss and providing information on the support services available through school for our children during this incredibly sad time.
“We recognise that this news may cause worry amongst our school community and we want to reassure parents that we continue to work closely with the Public Health Agency at this time.”
Health Authorities in Northern Ireland have yet to comment.
Her death brings the total number of victims to nine. It comes after pupil at Morelands Primary school in Hampshire died.
Richard Russell, the headmaster of Colfe’s school in Lewisham, confirmed the “devastating” news in a statement on Monday.
“This wholly unexpected tragedy has affected all members of the school community, including pupils, parents and staff. We are doing what we can to support the pupil’s family who are seeking to come to terms with their devastating loss,” he said.
On Monday Professor Adam Finn, head of the Bristol Children’s Vaccine Centre, insisted that only very unwell children are the ones “that need to go to hospital“.
Responding to reports that some worried parents had spent up to 12 hours waiting for advice after calling the NHS’s non emergency 111 number, Prof Finn told Times Radio: “The danger is, if we encourage everyone to go to A&E there will just be a queue there.
“The seriously ill children are the ones that need to go to hospital. If your child is really sick then don’t hang around.”
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said parents should contact their GP if they are worried their child might have Strep A, and only the “seriously ill” should be taken to A&E.
He added that advice was being given to affected schools.
Health officials are urging parents to contact NHS 111 or their GP if their child is getting worse, is feeding or eating much less than normal, has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration.
They should also seek help if their baby is under three months and has a temperature of 38C, or is older than three months with a temperature of 39C or higher.
A very tired or irritable child is also a red flag.
If their child is having difficulty breathing (by making grunting noises or sucking their stomach in under their ribs) or pauses in breathing, has blue skin, tongue or lips, or is floppy and unresponsive, parents should call 999 or go to A&E.