Strep A outbreak: Everything we know as seven children die of bacterial infection.
Parents are advised to be mindful of signs including characteristic rash and red tongue, also known as ‘strawberry tongue.
Seven children have now died from a bacterial infection after outbreaks at a number of schools.
A 12-year-old boy from south London is the latest victim of Strep A, the eldest to date. Six other primary school-age children have also passed away in recent weeks.
Health authorities are now investigating the recent increase in infections as well as the deaths.
Parents have been urged to be vigilant and look for potential symptoms.
But what do we know about the outbreak so far?
What is Strep A?
The bacteria can cause many different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases. They include skin infection, impetigo, strep throat, and scarlet fever.
Strep A can also, in rare cases, cause the life-threatening invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS).
However, most people who come into contact with Strep A bacteria remain well and symptom-free.
When did the recent outbreak start?
Health authorities say there has been an increase in both scarlet fever and iGAS this year.
They say that the increase is most likely related to high amounts of circulating bacteria and social mixing.
Five deaths were recorded among children under 10 within a week of being diagnosed with iGAS in England this season. The number was four during the last high season in 2017-2018.
There have been 2.3 cases of iGAS per 100,000 children aged 1 to 4 compared to an average of 0.5 before the Covid pandemic. For older children aged five to nine, the rate has been 1.1 cases per 100,000 compared to a pre-pandemic average of 0.3.
Who are the victims?
The latest child reported to have died is a 12-year-old from Lewisham, south London. He is the first secondary school pupil to have died from Strep A in the current outbreak but has yet to be named.
Previous victims include Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, a four-year-old from Buckinghamshire who died in November.
His mother, Shabana Kousar said the “sweet and caring” boy had developed a red rash across his back and was initially given antibiotics. She urged other parents to act if they spotted similar symptoms.
Hanna Roap, a seven-year-old from Penarth in Wales, also died after contracting the infection. Her father Hasan said the little girl was ”always smiling,” and the family had been left “numb” after her death.
The other victims have not been identified but include one pupil from St John’s School in Ealing, west London, and another from Ashford Church of England Primary School.
Four-year-old Camila Rose Burns from Bolton, Greater Manchester, has also contracted the infection and is currently on a ventilator in the hospital.
What are health authorities telling parents?
Dr. Colin Brown from UKHSA said: “We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual. The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics.
“In rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – invasive Group A strep (iGAS).
“This is still uncommon; however, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection from becoming serious.
“Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”