Another death of a young child from Strep A will send a chill down the spine of any parent.
So what is the risk and why the spate of deaths now?
Group A streptococcus is a common bacterium that generally causes relatively mild infections, such as sore throats.
Most people, children included, shrug off the infection in a few days.
Only rarely does the bug get into the bloodstream or some other place in the body where it isn’t normally found, multiply rapidly and cause more serious problems.
Doctors call it invasive Group A Strep, or iGAS, and that seems to be what has resulted in these deaths.
Strep A is a seasonal infection, more common in winter, and sure enough, cases of scarlet fever, a common childhood disease caused by the bug, are rising.
There are different strains of Strep A, and some are more likely to cause serious disease.
We don’t know yet whether a particular strain is involved in these deaths.
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But this isn’t a geographic cluster; the children lived far apart. So it’s not a bug that was passed from one to another.
It’s more likely that the common link is that the children didn’t get antibiotics in time.
Strep A is easily treated. Even iGAS responds to penicillin. But it needs to be given quickly.
So is this another symptom of an overwhelmed health service?
Are parents able to get a GP appointment for their children quickly enough when they develop a fever and a rash?
Are they deterred from even ringing the surgery because they know doctors are busy?
Sadly, these won’t be the last serious Strep A infections this winter.
Any parent would do well to know the symptoms – including a fever, rapid breathing and redness around a skin wound where the bug may have got into the body.
And importantly, they shouldn’t delay in getting medical help – either from a GP or A&E. Don’t wait when something doesn’t feel right.
Strep A is a treatable disease, and it’s a tragedy that children are dying.