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OMBUDSMAN STEPS INTO SCHOOL GYPSY CASE
in Cyprus Weekly, Sept. 30 - Oct. 6, 2005


By Menelaos Hadjicostis

Ombudsman Iliana Nicolaou has stepped into probe allegations gypsy children are being deliberately shut out of a Paphos primary school amid fears they could be Hepatitis A carriers.

In a statement, Nicolaou said she launched the probe of her own accord in her capacity as head of the Authority Against Racism and Discrimination.

“The Ombudsman will hold contacts with all involved state authorities, parents associations and students,” the statement said.

The probe will also touch a special education school in Limassol.

Parents had threatened on Saturday to indefinitely shut down the Polis Chrysochous primary school until 18 gypsy children were removed from classes for fear of spreading Hepatitis A to other kids.

Relented

But a lockdown was averted after Education Ministry officials convinced parents their kids would not come into contact with anyone suspected of carrying the non-fatal liver disease causing symptoms including nausea, diarrhea and fever.

Parents relented after ministry officials said children from the nearby small gypsy community in Makounta would not attend the 341-strong school until the medical test results were in.

Polis Chrysochous hospital staff collected blood samples from gypsy children at Makounta to determine whether or not they carried the virus.

Officials took the drastic measure after failed attempts to convince parents that Hepatitis A cases that surfaced last month did not involve gypsy children attending the primary school.

A case that surfaced in June involving a lone, Hepatitis A-infected gypsy student was swiftly dealt with as the child received immediate treatment.

Concerns

State officials are keen to put the Hepatitis A scare behind them amid concerns the island could be accused by its EU partners of harbouring racist attitudes towards gypsies.

Adults have signs and symptoms they were infected with Hepatitis A more often than children. There is no long-term infection and once you’ve had Hepatitis A, you cannot get it again

About 15% of infected people will have prolonged or relapsing symptoms over a 6 – 9 month period. Hepatitis A is found in the stools of infected persons and is usually spread from person to person by putting something contaminated in the mouth.



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