A 12-year-old child, who was a pupil at Colfe’s School in Lee, London, died of a Strep A bacterial infection.
Deaths like this are rare, but six other British children have also lost their lives in recent weeks.
Of the six deaths since September, five were under-fives in England. The other was a seven-year-old in Wales.
Reports say there are eight cases in Scotland, but no deaths. It is not known if there are any ongoing cases in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Colfe School Principal Richard Russell said: “This completely unexpected tragedy has affected everyone in the school community, including pupils, parents and staff. We do what we can to support the student’s family as they seek to come to terms with their devastating situation. loss. »
Health experts say parents and doctors need to be vigilant and have a low bar to deal with the contagious disease which is circulating earlier than usual this year.
The UK should expect many more cases of Strep A over the coming weeks.
Most strep A infections are mild and improve with antibiotics. But some people who catch it can get very sick.
Four-year-old Camila Rose Burns is critically ill and on a ventilator in hospital with a severe strep A infection, known as invasive group A strep (iGAS).
Her father, Dean Burns, from Liverpool, told the BBC’s Today programme: “She is still fighting for her life. She’s really bad, it’s just devastating for us as a family. We can’t believe this happened.
“It evolved into something called invasive group A strep, which has now entered his bloodstream and devastated his body.
“I’m lost with all this, I just want our family back. The pain is unimaginable. She is so beautiful and precious. She’s just our special little girl. »
Infections start early
UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Chief Medical Adviser Dr Susan Hopkins said: ‘We are concerned and concerned enough to make sure we wanted to inform the public of the signs and symptoms they should look out for. and of course to alert clinicians to prescribe antibiotics for these conditions. »
She says an early start to the Strep A infection season in the UK could be a side effect of the easing of pandemic restrictions.
“We have returned to normal social mixing and the disease patterns we are seeing at the moment are not synchronized with normal seasons, as people return to normal, move around and transmit infections. »
Strep A can cause a range of illnesses. Most cases are mild – a sore throat or skin infection that can be easily treated with antibiotics.
Some people develop scarlet fever, which causes a rash (resembling sandpaper) and flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature.
Very rarely, strep A can cause what is called an invasive group A strep infection or iGAS, which can be fatal.
Invasive disease occurs when bacteria get past your body’s immune defenses.
Warning signs of invasive disease include:
Urgent and early medical help is essential.
The UKHSA advises anyone with a high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in any area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhea to call NHS 111 and seek immediate medical attention.
Strep A can be treated with antibiotics.
Professor Jim McManus, current president of the Association of Chief Public Health Officers, said the UK should expect more cases: “It’s a function of the numbers. There are many more cases of group A strep, and because there are many more cases, the number of severe cases will increase.
“We had four deaths in 2017-18,” he added, comparing that figure to this year’s total.
“It’s a case of true vigilance. We seem to have forgotten that strep A is there so we have to think of strep A when children have symptoms that could be strep A. In some cases we may have thought it was gone because we thought to other infections. »
As a parent, if you feel your child appears seriously ill, you should rely on your own judgment. Contact NHS 111 or your GP if:
Call 999 or visit A&E if:
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