What is Strep A infection?
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Parents have been urged to remain vigilant as the death toll from group A strep this winter has now reached 15 children, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has revealed. Of these, 13 deaths occurred in England, while the other two were recorded in Ireland and Wales. The UKHSA has previously said that there is no evidence to suggest that a new strain of Group A Strep is circulating — with this year’s rise in cases being attributed to a combination of resumed social mixing and high amounts of circulating bacteria.
Group A Streptococcus is a group of infectious bacteria that can cause various inflammatory conditions including strep throat, scarlet fever, and various skin infections. It can be spread by close contact with an infected person, by coughs and sneezes, and via wounds.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), incidence of scarlet fever is also much higher than is typically seen at this time of year. In fact, three weeks ago, officials logged 851 cases of the infection, compared to 186, the average seen over previous years.
Common symptoms of the condition include headaches, fever and sore throat, accompanied by a fine pinkish or red rash on the body that has a sandpapery feel. Parents who suspect their child has contracted scarlet fever are encouraged to contact their GP or NHS 111.
A small subset of individuals who contract Group A Strep go on to develop an invasive infection, in which the bacteria enter the bloodstream. This can lead to sepsis or more deep-seated infections.
Invasive Group A Strep remains uncommon, the UKHSA have said, but there has nevertheless been a significant increase in cases seen this year — particularly in children under the age of 10.
Specifically, this year has seen 2.3 cases per 100,000 kids aged one to four and 1.1 per 100,000 children aged five to nine — compared, respectively, to figures of just 0.5 and 0.3 at this time of year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to medical experts, symptoms of invasive Group A Strep can include a persistently high temperature, difficulties breathing, a spreading rash that doesn’t fade when pressed, red and swollen joints, irritability and difficulty waking.
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