PUBLIC health England is working with local authorities across the North-East because of the high numbers of schools reporting absences because of flu and other winter viral illnesses.

Outbreaks of the sickness has seen a number of schools close in County Durham, including Blue Coats CE Aided Junior School, in Newton Hall, Durham, nearby Newton Hall Infants' School and Burnopfield Primary School. 

Durham County Council says the school in Burnopfield closed today for a deep clean to help prevent the spread of infection.

It is expected to reopen on Monday. 

Public Health England has issued advice to try and prevent the spread of the sickness. 

Dr Gayle Dolan, consultant in health protection for Public Health England North East, said: “Around 60 schools across the region are reporting absences due to symptoms of likely viral illness including influenza (flu) and norovirus.

“We expect viral illnesses of this kind to circulate in schools and the community at this time of year and we have been providing advice to parents and schools to help reduce the spread of infection.

“Flu can be extremely unpleasant for young children but for most healthy people it is a self-limiting illness.  Some people including older people, those with long-term medical conditions or weakened immune systems can be more at risk of developing complications and should seek prompt medical assessment if they develop symptoms of flu.

“The flu vaccination is the best form of protection we have. If they haven’t already had the flu nasal spray, it is important children who are in the clinical risk groups of flu visit their GP as soon as possible to be vaccinated. Primary school children should take up the opportunity to be vaccinated when their school vaccination programme begins, and toddlers aged two and three should visit their GP surgery as normal to receive this. 

“We also encourage adults in risk groups for flu: including pregnant women, those aged 65 and over and people with long term medical conditions or weakened immune systems, to book in with their GP or local pharmacy to receive the free vaccine.”

“The risk of all infections can be reduced by practising good hand hygiene, particularly after using the toilet, after using a tissue to catch a cough or a sneeze, and before eating.

 “If you are concerned about your child’s symptoms, or need further advice on how to manage an illness please consult your GP or NHS 111 in the normal way.”