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UK Strep A death toll rises to 15

Published on 09/12/22 at 10:41am

Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show that 15 children under the age of 15 have now died from the ongoing Strep A outbreak; 13 in England, one in Northern Ireland and one in Wales.

Strep A bacteria can cause various infections, from minor illnesses to severe, deadly diseases, including impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat. Most infections are minor, however it can also cause a life-threatening illness called invasive group A streptococcal disease. The UKHSA has stated that there is no evidence of a new strain, and that the current rise in cases was more likely triggered by high amounts of bacteria in circulation and an increase in social mixing.

Pharmacies are reporting localised shortages of antibiotics, however Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, has said that checks within the Department of Health and Social Care has not exposed any issues with medicines supply. Although, the National Pharmacy Association has noted “blips” in the supply chain of liquid penicillin, often used to treat children.

There are also reports of A&E departments overflowing with children suffering from winter illnesses such as flu, RSV and Strep A.

Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of UKHSA, commented: “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 very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called 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 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.”


Betsy Goodfellow

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