Second Irish college closes as five get swine flu

THE spread of swine flu in a Donegal Gaeltacht area has forced the closure of a second school, as teachers struggled to cope with the number of sick pupils.

The remaining children are being sent home from Coláiste Bhríde in Ranafast, Co Donegal, this morning after its headmaster yesterday admitted the end of the summer course had been brought forward for safety reasons.

It also emerged last night that nearly 350 people yesterday contacted the special swine flu hotline. It has handled about 1,344 calls so far this week.

The Donegal school had 306 pupils on its course. On Monday, 30 were sent home for precautionary reasons after two positive cases of swine flu were confirmed. Three more cases were later confirmed and it is expected another 276 pupils will be sent home this morning.

School course secretary Gerry Murphy said: “We had four cases exhibiting high fever and other symptoms. Yesterday (Tuesday), there was more than that and last night we were contacted by bean an tís (home stay hostesses) who indicated that more children were coming a cropper.

“It would seem that the virus is highly infectious, although it would seem anecdotally... there is a trend that some are recovering quickly.

“We possibly could have limped on but limping on would have exposed more children to risk,” he told Newstalk 106’s Lunchtime show with Eamon Keane

Mr Murphy said that the situation would then have exposed the general community in the Gaeltacht area because the bean an tís had children, a number of local women were pregnant and people were also caring for the elderly.

The school nurse had been “run off her feet”, he said.

Pressure had mounted on staff at Coláiste Bhríde and at one stage it had become “quite difficult from a logistical point of view”. Increasingly concerned parents had also called the school.

It had been “very, very tough” trying to cope with the situation, Mr Murphy admitted.

The school’s headmaster, Frank Mullin, also told RTÉ radio that it had been confirmed that five pupils had contracted swine flu.

Teachers and staff had brought forward the course’s closure for safety reasons.

Last weekend, 11 students tested positive for swine flu at Coláiste Mhuire in west Donegal. The school closed and all 300 were sent home.

There were reports last night that one student had tested positive for the virus at another Donegal school, Coláiste Mhachaire Rabhartaigh, in Cloughaneely. A number of pupils were also believed to have been sent home.

Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive released data on calls to its swine flu information line this week. The 1,344 calls since Monday bring to over 4,000 the number received by the helpline since the beginning of this month.

* The HSE’s 24-hour flu information line freephone number is 1800 94 11 00.

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