THE winter vomiting bug outbreak has continued to spread with schools in Halton now reporting a rise in absences related to suspected norovirus.

Four of the borough's schools have reported spikes in absences mainly due to diarrhoea and vomiting, while another five have seen increased numbers of children absent with cold and flu symptoms.

However, a council spokesperson said there had not yet been confirmation that norovirus was the cause.

The Grange Academy in Runcorn is the only school named as being affected.

The school tweeted advice from Public Health England on Monday, saying there had been "an increased number of cases of diarrhoea and vomiting at The Grange and across Halton".

The Halton Council spokesperson said: “All schools reporting potential outbreaks will be given infection control advice and followed up daily by the Infection and Prevention and Control Team until symptoms begin to alleviate.

"Advice includes good hand hygiene advice and information and information on environmental cleaning.

"The most helpful advice is to ensure that children with symptoms remain at home for 48 hours after the last episode of sickness or diarrhoea.

"Schools reporting diarrhoea and vomiting are generally advised to undertake an environmental deep cleans to break the spread of illness, no schools have had to close."

Elsewhere in Merseyside, schools have had to close and hundreds of children have missed school days in recent weeks because of the virus, which can also cause headaches, fever and muscle pains.

Florence Melly Primary School in Walton and Thatto Heath Community Primary School in St Helens have both been forced to close this week because of norovirus outbreaks.

Staff and patients at Arrowe Park Hospital have also been struck down, with more than 40 people believed to have caught the bug.

At the end of October, around 100 children at Rock Ferry Primary School in Wirral were affected by the bug, as were 40 pupils and staff at Millstead School in Everton.