As the Strep A outbreak continues, parents have began looking towards preventative measures for their child. So far, 15 children are believed to have died since September after picking up the bacterial infection.
Symptoms of Strep A include swollen glands, a high temperature and a sore throat. Other symptoms include a sandpaper-like rash and muscle aches.
While most infections are mild, there are times where the infection can cause more complications. Experts have tried to reassure parents that a course of antibiotics will be enough to nip it in the bud.
However, understandably parents will be wondering if a vaccine is available to prevent or reduce the severity of infection. Here’s everything you need to know about whether a vaccine is available.
Is there a Strep A vaccine?
Currently, no. There is no vaccine for Strep A, nor is there a vaccine currently in production.
Professor Adam Finn, from Bristol University, told BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme that the development of a vaccine has been “neglected” for years as widespread outbreak are few and far between. He said: “There is a desperate need to make a vaccine against this bug. It’s a very neglected bug, it causes a lot of problems, the most notable of which is rheumatic fever, which is a problem in many children in poor countries.”
What treatment is availble for Strep A?
Currently, the treatment for a standard case of Strep A is a course of antibiotics. Health Secretary Steve Barclay has been forced to downplay suggestions that the UK had dwindling supplied of the drug while the outbreak continued to spread.
Barclay told Sky News: “Sometimes, GPs can have particular surges if they’ve got a lot of demand in an area, and that’s quite routine, we can move the stock around our depots. As of last night when we checked, they said they could reassure us that they’ve got good stock and were moving that around to meet demand.”
However, his reassurance has been refuted by Dr Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies. She told The Times Radio: “There is patchy supply [of penicillin] and we have been checking regularly. And when you go online to order these medicines, particularly the liquid ones for children, you get these red marks basically saying that the product is out of stock. and this is happening all over the country.”
What have experts said about Strep A?
GPs have also warned of the need for better transparancy for parent. This includes knowning when to flag their child’s illness as serious.
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, from the Royal College of GPs, warned of GPs surgeries getting overwhelmed with cases, saying: “We do not want to discourage patients who are worried about their children to seek medical attention, particularly given the current circumstances.
“But we do want to see good public health messaging across the UK, making it clear to parents when they should seek help and the different care options available to them - as well as when they don’t need to seek medical attention.”
Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of the UKHSA, added: “We know that this is concerning for parents, but I want to stress that while we are seeing an increase in cases in children, this remains very uncommon. There a lots of winter bugs circulating that can make your child feel unwell, that mostly aren’t cause for alarm.
“However, make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is getting worse after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat or respiratory infection - look out for signs such as a fever that won’t go down, dehydration, extreme tiredness and difficulty breathing.”