Schools are issuing health and safety advice to parents and carers after a surge in cases of Strep A, reportedly causing the deaths of up to seven children in England and Wales.
Strep A, or Group A Streptococcus or Streptococcus pyogenes, is a bacteria commonly found in the nose and throat and can cause impetigo, strep throat and scarlet fever.
Parents and carers are being warned to be aware of symptoms such as muscle aches and tenderness, and to prevent the spread of bacteria by practicing good hygiene.
A school in Hammersmith and Fulham, London, issued detailed advice on the causes and symptoms of Strep A following children in the UK falling seriously ill or dying from infection.
“Group A Streptococcus survives in throats and on skin for long enough to allow easy spread between people through sneezing and skin contact,” the school wrote to guardians.
“People who are currently carrying the bacteria in the throat or on the skin may have symptoms of illness or they may have no symptoms and feel fine. In both cases, these bacteria can be passed on to others.”
The school warned of the risk of scarlet fever, which is caused by Group A Streptococcus and is usually a mild illness with antibiotics used to minimise its risk.
“The symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. This is followed by a fine red rash which typically first appears on the chest and stomach, rapidly spreading to other parts of the body,” they wrote.
While the scarlet rash may be harder to spot for children with darker skin tones, the school advised the skin will still feel rough like sandpaper and the face can be flushed red but pale around the mouth.
They also warned that children who have had chickenpox or the flu recently are more likely to develop more serious infection during an outbreak of scarlet fever.
“Parents should remain vigilant for symptoms such as a persistent high fever, cellulitis (skin infection) and arthritis (joint pain and swelling). If you are concerned for any reason please seek medical assistance immediately,” the school representatives wrote.
They advised that if a child feels unwell, you should call your GP practice or call NHS 111 for medical help and that children showing symptoms should not attend school.
“Because Group A Streptococcal disease is spread through coughing, sneezing and skin contact, it’s important to have good hand hygiene and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues and throw these away.
“If you are unwell, stay at home and seek medical advice. This will all help limit the spread of other infections, which are common this time of year.”