Strep A: Child deaths from bacterial infection in UK rise to 15

UKHSA data shows fatalities in England have surged to 13

Emily Atkinson
Thursday 08 December 2022 15:53 GMT
What is Strep A and what are the symptoms?

The number of children who have died from invasive Strep A illness in the UK has risen to 15, health officials have confirmed.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has recorded 13 fatalities linked to the bacterial infection in England, while one child has died in Northern Ireland and another in Wales.

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

Illnesses caused by Strep A include skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.

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

The UKHSA has said there was no 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 given to children.

It comes as health authorities last night confirmed the death of a four-year-old with Strep A from Ireland just hours after news broke that two children were admitted to hospital following a scarlet fever outbreak at a primary school in Wales.

It follows official data published yesterday that revealed scarlet fever cases have surged by tenfold in a year.

UKHSA figures showed a huge rise in scarlet fever cases in England and Wales from last year, with 23,000 cases in the year to date, compared to just 2,300 for the same period in 2021.

Infections for the final half of the year were also more than three times higher than the average for the previous five years.

Scarlet fever usually only causes mild illness with symptoms such as a fever and rash. Early treatment with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection.


Advice from UK Health Security Agency on Strep A

The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature, a sore throat and swollen neck glands (a large lump on the side of your neck).

A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later. It looks like small, raised bumps and starts on the chest and tummy, then spreads. The rash makes your skin feel rough, like sandpaper. The rash will be less visible on darker skin but will still feel like sandpaper.

Contact NHS 111 or your GP if:

  • your child is getting worse
  • your child is feeding or eating much less than normal
  • your child has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration
  • your baby is under 3 months and has a temperature of 38C, or is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 39C or higher
  • your baby feels hotter than usual when you touch their back or chest, or feels sweaty
  • your child is very tired or irritable

Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs
  • there are pauses when your child breathes
  • your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue
  • your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake

With additional reporting from the Press Association

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