Ninth child dies from Strep A – latest

What is Strep A and what are the symptoms?

A pupil who attended a primary school in Belfast died on Monday after being diagnosed with a severe form of Strep A, her school has confirmed – bringing the UK-wide death toll to nine.

Stella-Lily McCorkindale developed a severe illness last week and was treated at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, where she had been in intensive care.

A spokesperson for Black Mountain Primary School said: “Sadly, the governors, staff and students of Black Mountain Primary School have been informed of the death of one of our P2 pupils.

“This is a tragic loss to the Black Mountain Primary School family and our school community, and the thoughts of the entire school are with the pupil’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

Nine children are confirmed to have died from Strep A in recent weeks, and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed there has been an increase in infections.

While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bacteria causes a life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.

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Mother waits nearly 10 hours in A&E with daughter

A mother whose daughters have both contracted Strep A is warning other parents to be aware of the symptoms, advising: “If something doesn’t seem right, go straight to the doctor.”

The woman, from Llandudno, Conwy county, initially thought her elder daughter – who has scarlet fever – had a chest infection which then “turned into some kind of sickness bug, so I thought she had one of those 24-hour things”.

“But after four days of hardly eating, I knew it wasn’t just a bug. At times she seemed OK. Then her temp would spike to 40C,” she told the BBC.

She took her daughter to A&E, where she had to wait nearly 10 hours before her daughter was seen and given a prescription for penicillin, with the mother advised to keep all of her children off school.

Ms Jones’ youngest daughter aged three, also caught the infection and is being treated with antibiotics, the broadcaster reports.

Andy Gregory7 December 2022 01:02

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Not yet enough evidence to link Covid rules to Strep A outbreak, expert says

There is not yet enough data to support the hypothesis that Covid restrictions have played a role in the early arrival of Strep A season, a public health expert has said.

“Why are we seeing a steep increase in cases, at a different time of year compared with before the pandemic? The scientific process involves waiting for clear data, analysing this data and testing it against various explanations,” Devi Sridhar of the University of Edinburgh wrote in The Guardian.

“But sadly, those with political or ideological agendas have been quick to fit this into their pre-existing narrative: some have said it’s a consequence of lockdown and children not being exposed enough to diseases and building up an “immunity debt”, while others have said it’s due to weakened immune systems from prior Covid-19 infection, given that the majority of children have now had Covid-19.

“Neither of these hypotheses has enough data to support it yet. And in fact one could also argue that restrictions on social mixing and the reduced transmission of all infectious diseases delayed strep A infection in children, including severe cases.

“A similar argument can be made for the benefits of delaying RSV infection in infants, which can trigger recurrent wheezing and asthma during childhood.”

Andy Gregory6 December 2022 23:56

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Parents warned to look out for these symptoms

My colleague Emily Atkinson has this report on the symptoms that parent have been told to watch out for:

Andy Gregory6 December 2022 23:00

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Watch: What is Strep A and what are the symptoms?

What is Strep A and what are the symptoms?

Andy Gregory6 December 2022 21:57

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Irish minister says ‘heart goes out’ to bereaved family of child aged 4

Asked about the case, education minister Simon Harris said: “I need to be very careful on this because this is an issue that I haven’t been briefed on and I don’t want to put any information into the public domain that is wrong or ill-informed because I’m sure lots of parents are looking at media reports both in here in the Republic and also in the North.

“I’m sure [they] are very, very concerned and our hearts go out to those families involved.

“I’ve no doubt that the minister for health, the Department of Health, and our health and surveillance structures in this country will be monitoring the situation very closely and probably linking with their colleagues in the north as well.”

He added: “I’ve no doubt as soon as they have more information that they will update the public and particularly parents and schools.”

Andy Gregory6 December 2022 21:01

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Lack of Covid mixing probably ‘bringing forward normal scarlet fever season’, top health official says

A lack of mixing due to the Covid pandemic plus susceptibility in children are probably “bringing forward the normal scarlet fever season” from spring to this side of Christmas, according to the deputy director of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

“There isn’t something that is particularly new or novel about the bacteria that are causing the infections that we’re seeing at the moment,” Dr Colin Brown told Sky News.

Andy Gregory6 December 2022 20:02

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Health workers can give groups of children antibiotics in outbreak areas

Local health protection teams can give antibiotics to groups of children where there has been a Strep A outbreak, the deputy director of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

There is “long-standing guidance” that enables health protection teams to assess the situation in schools and nurseries to consider antibiotic prophylaxis for “either a group of children in certain classes or an entire nursery school”, Dr Colin Brown told Sky News.

And he stressed that there is no evidence to suggest there has been a change to the circulating strains of Strep A to make them more severe.

Andy Gregory6 December 2022 19:00

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Spate of serious Strep A cases are ‘an enormous tragedy’

People are right to be worried by the recent spate of serious Strep A cases, which is “an enormous tragedy for these families”, a professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol has said.

“We’re not used, in our society, to losing the lives of previously healthy children – this is something that’s very shocking and concerning,” Adam Finn told Times Radio.

“What we’ve got to do is get the balance right here; on the one hand not alarm people whose children are mildly ill – and there are a lot of mildly ill children around at the moment – and at the same time help people and support people to seek care and attention when their children become seriously ill, relentlessly sicker and sicker as the hours go by. Those are the children that need to be urgently seen.”

Children with “run-of-the-mill” viral infections can feel unwell and then better again, and “things go up and down”, and they continue to eat and drink, he said, adding: “Children who’ve got invasive bacterial infection, they don’t have those episodes of feeling better – they just get worse and worse.

“They stop eating, they stop responding, they sleep a lot. They might complain, if they are awake, of aches and pains and headaches. They might have a rash or a sore throat or tummy ache, but they just get sicker and sicker. When you see that progressive decline, that’s the time to get the child to medical attention.”

Andy Gregory6 December 2022 17:58

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School near Hartlepool confirms two cases of Strep A

St Peter’s Elwick Church of England Primary School near Hartlepool has said that two children have been confirmed to have Strep A.

The school wrote to parents on Monday assuring them that staff were following public health advice and urged them to seek medical help if they were worried about their child’s health.

Andy Gregory6 December 2022 17:01

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Strep A levels in Scotland ‘do not exceed previous peaks’, says health secretary

The number of Strep A infections in Scotland has risen but there have been no deaths, Holyrood’s health secretary has said.

Public Health Scotland said on Monday that there had been eight reports of invasive Group A Strep (iGas) infections in Scotland – the rarest and most severe types of infections – in children under the age of 10.

“Reports of Group A Strep infections, or Gas as it’s known, have increased right across Scotland,” Humza Yousaf told MSPs.

“There have been no reported deaths in Scotland [from] related Group A Strep or indeed invasive Group A Strep conditions. I understand, of course, that the reporting of Gas conditions will be concerning but let me offer some reassurance.

“The vast majority of Gas infections present as mild illness that is easily treated by penicillin or other antibiotics and invasive infections are, thankfully, rare.”

Mr Yousaf added that peaks in Gas conditions are expected during winter and spring, but stressed “current numbers do not exceed previous spikes”, and said that health services are “on alert” to Strep A – with guidance being drawn up for nurseries and schools.

Andy Gregory6 December 2022 16:02

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