Strep A outbreak: Child deaths SOAR to 19 as disease sweeps across UK

At least 19 children have died from Strep A in the UK
At least 19 children have died from Strep A in the UK

A total of 19 children in the UK have died due to Strep A disease since September

Published

At least 19 children have now died across the UK from the invasive Strep A disease.

Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows 16 children under the age of 18 have died in England since September and three other deaths of children have been recorded in Belfast and Wales.

The figures come as the Government acknowledged supply issues with some of the drugs used to treat infections caused by the bacteria.

GB News understands that health officials do not believe the number of scarlet fever infections has yet peaked, suggesting more deaths are likely.

Figures show that cases of scarlet fever are more than three times the number in the last high season in 2017/18.
Figures show that cases of scarlet fever are more than three times the number in the last high season in 2017/18.

Group A strep bacteria can cause many different illnesses, including the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.

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

The Government has introduced serious shortage protocols (SSPs) for three penicillin medicines, meaning pharmacists can legally supply alternative forms of the medicine if they do not have the specific formulation stated on the prescription, such as an oral solution.

The SSPs, which covers the entire UK, are intended to lessen the need for patients to return to their GP for a different prescription when they cannot get hold of a medicine.

Pharmacists say they were “baffled” as to why it had taken so long for the Government to introduce the protocols.

The UKHSA has said there is no current 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.

Since September, there have been 7,750 notifications of scarlet fever, more than three times the number in the last high season in 2017/18.

There have been 111 iGAS cases in children aged one to four and 74 cases in children aged five to nine.

And a total of 74 people of all ages have died in England since September.

Doctors are warning parents about Strep A symptoms
Doctors are warning parents about Strep A symptoms

Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of the UKHSA said parents should look out for signs their child is getting worse after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat or respiratory infection.

He said: “Scarlet fever and ‘strep throat’ will make children feel unwell, but can be easily treated with antibiotics.

“Symptoms to look out for include fever, sore throat, swollen glands, difficulty swallowing, and headache.

“Scarlet fever causes a sandpapery rash on the body and a swollen tongue.

“NHS services are under huge pressure this winter, but please visit nhs.uk, contact 111 online or your GP surgery if your child has symptoms of scarlet fever or ‘strep throat’ so they can be assessed for treatment.”