A SWIMMING centre is under investigation by Southend Council’s environmental health department after six children broke out in mystery rashes.

An environmental health officer began an inspection of Belfairs Swim Centre, in Fairview Gardens, Leigh, on Thursday afternoon after a number of parents complained their children had developed rashes after a birthday party at the swimming pool on Saturday.

The swimming pool at the centre has been closed since Monday but Legacy Leisure, a charity contracted by the council to run the facility, said this was for prescheduled maintenance on the pool’s air handling unit on the roof and the facility would reopen “in the next few days”.

Freddie Knight, eight, was one of ten children to attend the party on Saturday. Four days later, he was among six children who developed the rash. Dad Richard, 33, of Great Birches Road, Benfleet, said he initially thought it might be chicken pox, but became suspicious when many of the other symptoms failed to appear.

He said: “Freddie came out in blotches and a rash at about 8pm on Wednesday, which looked like chicken pox, but there was none of the fever, aches or itching that you would typically get.

“He’s also had a minor case of chicken pox before and, although there’s a chance he could get it again, it doesn’t explain why there were no other symptoms. None of their classmates at Blenheim Junior School have got it, either, even though chicken pox is highly contagious.”

Mr Knight added parents of three of the children had consulted GPs, some of whom had diagnosed chicken pox, while others diagnosed a skin irritation.

Southend Council has sent its environmental health officers to the pool to try to get to the bottom of the problem.

A council spokesman said: “A Southend Council environmental health officer was at Belfairs Swimming Pool yesterday afternoon and will provide details as soon as the investigation has been completed. Typically, the officer would, at a minimum, check the pool’s hygiene records, conducting water tests and taking surface swabs. This may then be followed by laboratory analysis.”

Darren Woolard, headteacher of Blenheim Juniors, said: “We are advising parents to seek advice from a GP about the condition of their children, who we know are eager to return to school as soon as possible, but we need to contain any potential contagion.”

A spokesman for Legacy Leisure said: “We are aware of an isolated incident which may relate to the pool at Belfairs and together with the council’s environmental health team we are currently looking into the matter.

“At this stage, we are unable to provide any further details.”