PARENTS have been urged to be on the lookout for symptoms of a dangerous illness after six children have died from Strep A.
Group A Streptococcus (GAS) – is also known as Streptococcus pyogenes.
In most cases it will cause mild illness, and can lead to conditions such as scarlet fever, which is flu-like and tends to occur in children – it can be serious if not treated swiftly with antibiotics.
Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that there were 851 cases of scarlet fever in the week ending November 20.
This is compared to 186 cases recorded in previous years.
So far this season, the experts said in England there have been five recorded deaths of Strep A within seven days.
There has been one recorded death in Cardiff, Wales.
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All children have been under the age of 10, one including four-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Ali from Buckinghamshire.
Figures show that during the last high season for Strep A in 2017/18, there were four deaths in children under 10.
With a resurgence in illnesses caused by the infection, experts have said it's important to know when you should take your child to A&E.
You should call 999 or go to your nearest 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
Dr Colin Brown, Deputy Director, UKHSA said while the illnesses is uncommon, parents need to be aware.
He said: "We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual.
"The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics. In very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep (iGAS).
"This is still uncommon however it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious.
"Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”
The experts added that there is no current evidence to suggest a new strain of Strep is ciruclating.
In most cases, they said the illness should resolve without medical intervention.
However, if you feel your child is seriously unwell you should trust your judgement and contact your GP if they experience any of the following:
- 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.
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They added that good hand and respiratory hygiene are important for stopping the spread of many bugs.
"By teaching your child how to wash their hands properly with soap for 20 seconds, using a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes, and keeping away from others when feeling unwell, they will be able to reduce the risk of picking up, or spreading, infections," the experts said.
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