Respiratory virus cuts a swathe through students

SICK: A savage winter illness has cut its way through many local primary schools. Image: Shutterstock
SICK: A savage winter illness has cut its way through many local primary schools. Image: Shutterstock

A savage winter virus has struck down almost half of all pupils at some Ballarat schools.

Doctors said the flu-like upper respiratory tract virus was “running rampant” through the area with some doctors seeing up to 10 children a day in recent weeks, all with the same symptoms.

At Woady Yaloak Primary School’s Ross Creek campus, almost 70 of the school’s 153 pupils were absent with as few as seven children in some classes.

“I have never seen anything like this illness before,” said campus head Eamon Johnson.

The school’s three other campuses also reported higher than usual absence rates with teachers also suffering the highly infectious virus.

The virus has also swept through the wider community, particularly office workers, commuters and families. 

“In the past four or five weeks this virus has got pretty bad, especially in schools,” said Eureka Medical Clinic’s Dr Arun Kondaji.

“It’s a flu-like illness but purely an upper respiratory tract viral infection with general body aches, cough, cold and fever,” he said.

Phoenix P-12 Community College principal Karen Snibson said the past few days had seen a significant number of students and staff from both the primary and secondary campuses absent with flu-like symptoms.

“The kids are genuinely unwell with more severe symptoms than usual,” she said.

Dr Kondaji said school students were particularly at risk because of the close confines of classrooms and the spread of the virus through coughing and sneezing. 

​“It hits pretty hard for three to five days but people with good immunity tend to fight it off themselves with symptomatic treatment, fluid and rest.

“It’s spread through droplets so washing your hands, covering your mouth and staying away from people if you are sick will help stop the spread,” Dr Kondaji said. 

Several other schools have reported gastro outbreaks alongside the seasonal coughs, colds and viruses.

Several cases of influenza A have also been confirmed in Ballarat, with the number of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases across Victoria more than double the same time last year.