Sunday, February 5News For London

Downing Street issues strep A warning

After eight suspected deaths of children under 15, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has warned the public to be wary of the bacterial disease. 

Image credit: Alexander Grey, Unsplash.

Downing Street has asked parents to be attentive for group A strep infection symptoms in children. This comes following the eighth death of a primary school child. 

The Evening Standard reported a spokesperson of the Prime Minister who said: “The NHS is prepared to deal with situations like this.” He prompted parents with “concerns” to get in touch with NHS. 

He was also quick to dismiss any shortages of amoxicillin, the medicine used to treat strep A in children. He said, “It’s important to reassure parents that there is no current shortage as far as we’re aware.”

Scarlet fever is usually a mild disease but the latest data from UKHSA shows it to be “higher” than it was at the same time last year. The highly infectious scarlet fever is generally characterised by “sore throat, headache, and fever along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel.” 

Streptococci bacteria causes scarlet fever and other respiratory and skin infections such as strep throat and impetigo. The general course of treatment includes antibiotics. The UKHSA recommends contacting the NHS or GP services if one’s child is suspected of contracting this disease because early treatment would reduce the risk of “pneumonia or a bloodstream infection.”

In the rare events when these bacteria get inside the bloodstream, they cause cases of iGAS or invasive group A streptococcal infection which can be extremely deadly.

Image credit: Sanjana Radhakrishna. A woman pushes a stroller with her child in the early morning.

A parent of an eight-year-old told Westminster World he is “scared” to drop off his child at school. “Children of the same age are dying, I don’t think I can send my child to school in this environment,” he said.

The agency is investigating the post-pandemic increase in lower iGAS infection cases involving children under 4. They cite the reason to be the result of the “crossover of strains associated in both presentations.” 

Hannah, who lives in Wembley Park and has a three-year-old daughter said she is “horrified” by the deaths of “such young children.”

She continued: “My son is prone to getting sick very easily and so many children have died because of this, it’s a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Although the NHS cites strep A to be “less common in adults”, the threat to children and adults remains the same in terms of disease probability. UKHSA reports a significant increase in the number of cases seen in all age groups from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic. Yet, there is a need for severe caution to be exercised this winter regarding children’s health.