Worried parents at Hillside school kept their children at home on Monday after receiving a health authority letter informing them that a pupil had been admitted to hospital with meningitis.

The 16-year-old boy, who has not been named, was taken to Barnet General hospital on Thursday last week suffering symptoms believed to have been caused by meningitis.

Tests carried out for the disease proved negative and he has since been discharged from hospital and is recovering at home.

Fears were sparked among parents of Hillside pupils after letters and information leaflets about meningitis were sent home on Friday last week in accordance with West Hertfordshire Health Authority policy.

Letters were also sent out to Hawksmoor school pupils, who mix socially and academically with Hillside school pupils.

The standard health authority letter stated that 'a pupil who attends Hillside School has been admitted due to meningitis' and advised parents to be aware of the disease's symptoms which include a rash, headache, fever, vomiting, drowsiness, neck stiffness and dislike of bright lights.

Parents were also advised to telephone the health authority if they had any further queries.

According to one parent who called the helpline number for advice, the health authority failed to confirm whether there was a serious risk towards other pupils -- forcing her to keep her two boys at home.

Speaking on Monday, Debbie Bell said: "At the moment I seem to be meeting a brick wall after calling the helpline number -- the doctor I spoke to said the contents of the letter were still true.

"But she wouldn't tell me whether the boy was being treated for viral or bacterial meningitis, that's all I want to know. So I have to decide whether it is safe to send my children to school.

"I know that there a quite a few people who will have withdrawn their children today -- it's just not knowing what information to act on."

A further letter was issued on Monday this week by Hillside's headteacher Tim Westrip stating that "contrary to rumour there have been no further cases of meningitis at this school following the child who was admitted last week." It urged parents to continue sending their children to school as normal.

A spokesman for Barnet General explained that the boy was treated immediately on arrival at hospital as if he was suffering from meningitis.

He said: "In a case like this one thing you don't want to do is to waste any time. The boy was given a course of antibiotics which is the usual treatment for those suffering from bacterial meningitis -- which we all know can prove dangerous unless treated quickly. Fortunately, the results for both viral and bacterial meningitis have come up negative." The exact cause of the boy's illness is still not known as further tests are continuing.

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