Strep A: 15 children die from Strep A illness in UK

Fifteen children under the age of 15 have now died from invasive Strep A illness in the UK.

New data released by the UK Health Security Agency shows 13 of the 15 children have died in England since September.

There has also been one death in Northern Ireland, and one in Wales.

Group A strep bacteria can cause many different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases.

The UKHSA has said there is no current evidence that a new strain is circulating and the rise in cases is most likely due to high amounts of circulating bacteria and increased social mixing.

 

It comes as pharmacists continue to use Twitter to complain of shortages in access to antibiotics, including the liquid version of penicillin, which is often given to children.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay insisted on Wednesday that checks within the Department of Health have not revealed an issue with supply of the medicines.

However, the National Pharmacy Association has pointed to “blips” in the supply chain of liquid penicillin, while the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies said pharmacists across the country were struggling to source all they need.

What is Strep A?

Group A streptococcus (or Strep A) is known to cause scarlet fever, throat infections and, in very rare cases, invasive disease.

This can occur when bacteria get into parts of the body where bacteria are not usually found, such as the blood, muscle or the lungs.

It can happen if the bacteria get past a person’s defences, such as through an open wound or when a person’s immune system is depleted.

Most people who come into contact with the bacteria remain well and symptom-free.

Strep A symptoms

The bacteria can be found in the throat and on the skin and people may carry it without displaying any symptoms.

It can live in throats and on hands for long enough to allow easy spread between people through sneezing, kissing and skin contact.

Invasive Strep A can cause further complications. Symptoms include:

  • high fever
  • severe muscle aches
  • localised muscle tenderness
  • redness at site of a wound

Dr Yimmy Chow, health protection consultant at UKHSA London, said: “Group A streptococcal infections usually result in mild illness, and information has been shared with parents and staff about the signs and symptoms.

“These include a sore throat, fever and minor skin infections, and can be treated with a full course of antibiotics from the GP. In rare incidences, it can be a severe illness and anyone with high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea should call NHS 111 and seek medical help immediately.”

Slough Observer | News