Health officials urge parents to be wary of Strep A symptoms following rise in cases

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Wednesday 7th December 2022

Health officials are urging parents to look out for symptoms of Strep A following a rise in cases.  Strep A is a strain of bacteria, which can be found in the throat or on the skin. In the vast majority of cases, people carry the bacteria without knowing it and it causes them no harm. Some people, however, develop symptoms of Strep A infection, which can cause severe illness. It is possible to pass on the bacteria through coughing and sneezing or via close contact. This is why outbreaks in settings like nurseries, schools and care homes can occur.

Health experts have issued a warning to parents to help them to spot the signs of Strep A infection, as case numbers are rising across parts of the UK. There has been a rise in cases in recent weeks and numbers could continue to surge with people socialising and spending more time indoors and in busy, crowded spaces in the run-up to Christmas.

Although health officials are urging parents to be cautious, they have stressed that most children who have symptoms of Strep A infection will experience very mild signs. Common symptoms of Strep A include a sore throat and a rash on the skin. Some children develop more severe illness as a result of Strep A infection. Scarlet fever can be a complication. This is a contagious infection, which can be treated very effectively with antibiotics. Some children develop a bumpy tongue, which looks similar to the skin of a strawberry and this is why doctors encourage parents to look out for a strawberry tongue. Other symptoms include a very sore throat, swollen glands in the neck and fever. As scarlet fever is classed as a notifiable disease, cases must be reported. This enables public health teams and healthcare professionals to target outbreaks and clusters to reduce the spread of infection.

Strep A has hit the headlines recently because some children have developed very severe symptoms and sadly died from the infection. Most people have very mild symptoms, but it is possible for the bacteria to cause iGAS, which stands for invasive group A streptococcal infection. Urgent medical treatment is required in this case. Symptoms include intense muscle pain and a very high temperature. Invasive infections occur when bacteria beat the body’s immune system. It is most common in people who are already fighting an illness or have compromised immunity.

In light of a recent uptick in cases, the UK Health Security Agency has urged parents to seek emergency help if their child has a fever, severe muscle pain, pain in a single area of the body or vomiting and diarrhoea that isn’t linked to other causes.  In recent weeks, nine children have died from Strep A in the UK. The father of a 7-year-old girl from Penarth, Wales, paid tribute to his “bubbly” daughter after she died at the end of November. Hasan Roap said that his family was “numb” after losing Hanna to Strep A. She had come home from school with a cough on the 27th of November and her condition deteriorated quickly. She was given steroids by her GP, but by the next day, she couldn’t move and was unresponsive. Mr Roap tried to revive her using CPR but she was proclaimed dead by the paramedics shortly after they arrived on the scene. 

It is very uncommon for children to develop severe symptoms linked to iGAS, but with case numbers rising, doctors and public health officials are urging parents to be aware of the symptoms and to seek medical advice if they are worried about their child. There is no vaccine for Strep A, but antibiotics are usually a very effective treatment.