Girl, six, who died after suspected bug outbreak at school was ‘special to everyone’

Millstead Primary School
The school community is said to be devastated at the deaths of the two girls - CHP

The grandmother of a six-year-old girl who died amid a suspected infectious bug outbreak at a primary school says the child was “special to everyone”.

Bethany-Rose Alice Riley was sent home from Millstead Primary School in the Everton area of Liverpool on June 26 and died later that day, her family said.

Another child, believed to be five and in the same class, also died after being sent home from the special needs school.

Although the cause of the deaths is not yet known, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said they were “unlikely” to be due to giardia, as has been suggested locally.

Bethany’s family said they are still waiting for answers and suggested that an illness contracted from the school may be the cause of her death.

Susan Paton, her grandmother, told The Telegraph: “She was so special to everyone. She wasn’t the size of a normal six-year-old, she couldn’t do anything for herself.

“She’s had two post-mortems and it’s come back it’s not natural causes that she’s died of. It’s definitely something that’s triggered that, that’s killed her off.

“She means the world to me. She’s not the first grandchild I’ve lost. I’ve lost two others and I lost a son as well so it’s quite heartbreaking.

“Nobody’s coping with it. Nobody’s coping with it whatsoever because it’s so sudden.”

She added: “Bethany passed the same day as she was sent home from school. It’s not the first time she’s been sent home from school.”

Asked if she thought an infectious bug may be the cause of her death, she said: “I do”.

Parasites not normally serious risk to health

Giardiasis, an infection of the digestive system, is caused by tiny parasites known as giardia lamblia.

The infection can cause symptoms such as diarrhoea, stomach cramps, flatulence and bloating, but is generally not a serious risk to health and can be treated easily with antibiotics.

It can be spread by direct contact with infected people or animals, or from swallowing contaminated water, food or drinks.

Any parents concerned that they or their child are displaying symptoms are urged to contact health specialists.

In a moving tribute to her daughter, Bethany’s mother, Rebecca Melling, said her life had shattered into “a million pieces” .

Calling her daughter “my beautiful little sass queen”, Ms Melling wrote on Facebook: “I had the best six years full of love … I hope you are with the angels playing, laughing. I love you so much, my beautiful little queen. Sleep tight, save a space for me.”

Millstead Primary School said its community was “devastated” by the deaths, and that the two pupils had “filled their classes with joy”.

Michelle Beard, the head teacher, said: “We have sent our sincerest condolences to both of their families. Both children filled their classes with joy during their time with us, and they will forever be in our hearts.

“We are working closely with our families, staff and pupils to support them as we come to terms with this terribly sad news.”

The Liverpool Echo first reported on a suspected giardia outbreak at Millstead last month, with public health measures put in place to try to tackle the number of infections linked to the school, which caters for children with special educational needs.

Emma Savage, a consultant in health protection for Cheshire and Merseyside health protection team, said: “UKHSA is aware of the sad deaths of two children who attend Millstead Primary School, and our thoughts are with the family, friends and school community.

“The deaths are unlikely to be due to giardia. Giardia usually causes a self-limiting gastrointestinal illness, which can spread easily in households and school settings.

“Investigations are ongoing, and we have provided information and advice to the school and parents. Public health measures have been put in place to help prevent further cases.”

Millstead Primary School declined to comment when contacted by The Telegraph.

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