Warning issued as Strep A, Covid and flu cases expected to soar

Dr Sara discusses Strep A home testing kits

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Parents are set to hit reality tomorrow with a strong reminder that dangerous and potentially deadly winter bugs are still “circulating at high levels.” That’s in a message from the UK Health Security Agency which expects cases of Strep A, Scarlet fever, flu and Covid to carry on surging throughout January. The advice, put simply, is to keep children with a fever at home and away from school and nursery in a bid to stifle the spread of such bugs. Adults should also stay indoors if they feel poorly, and wear a mask if they have to go out. 

It comes as cases of Strep A have become rampant this season, with the Government recording 33,836 from September 19 to Christmas Day. This is a staggering increase from 4.672 in the last “comparably high season” – winter 2017 and into 2018.

In 2017 to 2018 there were 30,768 scarlet fever notifications overall across the year, the data shows. Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria named group A streptococci – a bacteria which can cause skin infections like strep throat and impetigo. 

In rare instances, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause invasive group A strep, which has claimed the lives 25 children under 18 in England over the last four months.

Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “It’s important to minimise the spread of infection in schools and other education and childcare settings as much as possible. If your child is unwell and has a fever, they should stay home from school or nursery until they feel better and the fever has resolved.

“Helping children to learn about the importance of good hand hygiene is also key, so practice regular handwashing at home with soap and warm water. Catching coughs and sneezes in tissues then binning them is another simple way to help stop illness from spreading.

“Adults should also try to stay home when unwell and if you do have to go out, wear a face covering. When unwell don’t visit healthcare settings or visit vulnerable people unless urgent.

“Remember that flu vaccination is still available for all eligible groups and is the best protection against the virus. We have seen good uptake in older age groups but vaccination among young children remains low.

“Flu can be very unpleasant and in some cases can lead to more serious illness. Getting your child vaccinated protects them and others they come into contact with, and it’s still not too late.”

Despite the winter season being in its final months, GP surgeries are still vacinating children against flu. But there is an eligibility criteria. Toddlers need to be aged two and three on August 31, 2022. All primary school aged children can have it, and some secondary school pupils. 

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