Strep A: Boy, 12, first secondary school pupil to die from Strep A

Six Strep A deaths have been confirmed so far in the UK

A 12-year-old boy has become the first secondary school pupil to die from Strep A, according to reports.

It comes as health experts began investigating cases of the infection after the deaths of six young children were confirmed among a rise in cases. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there had been a rise in rare invasive Group A strep this year, particularly in children under 10, with five deaths of under-10s in England since September.

A separate case has been reported in Wales, taking the known UK total to six. Group A strep bacteria can cause many different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases.

The range of illnesses includes the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat. While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bacteria cause a life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.

It has now been reported that a secondary school pupil has also died from Strep A. Here is all you need to know:

What has the school said?

The Sun reports that in a letter to parents of pupils at the £15,000-a-year Colfe’s School in Lewisham, headmaster Richard Russell said the 12-year-old student’s death was a “huge shock”. He added he wanted to reassure families the risk to their children was still low. He said: “We have taken advice from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

“Blood tests identified the student had blood poisoning (septicaemia) caused by Group A streptococcus (GAS), which led to invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS). The GAS bacterium is very common and usually causes mild illness such as scarlet fever, which can be treated with antibiotics.

“However, in very rare circumstances it can be complicated by other ­infections and get into the bloodstream — becoming invasive and causing blood poisoning.” The boy who died was a keen rugby player, the paper has reported.

Invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS or Strep A) is known to cause scarlet fever, throat infections and, in very rare cases, invasive diseaseInvasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS or Strep A) is known to cause scarlet fever, throat infections and, in very rare cases, invasive disease
Invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS or Strep A) is known to cause scarlet fever, throat infections and, in very rare cases, invasive disease

What has UKHSA?

Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of the UKHSA, said: “We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual. “The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics.

“In very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep (iGAS). This is still uncommon however it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious.

“Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”

Parents are being told to contact NHS 111 or their GP if their child is getting worse, is feeding or eating much less than normal, or has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration. They should also seek help if their baby is under three months and has a temperature of 38C, or is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 39C or higher.

Other red flags are if the child is very tired or irritable. Parents should call 999 or go to A&E if a child is having difficulty breathing (such as grunting noises or tummy sucking in under the ribs), pauses in breathing, blue colour to a child’s skin, tongue or lips, or if a child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake.

Where have Strep A cases been confirmed?

The UKHSA said investigations are also under way following reports of an increase in lower respiratory tract Group A Strep infections in children over the past few weeks, which have caused severe illness. It said there is no current evidence that a new strain is circulating and the rises are most likely due to high amounts of circulating bacteria and social mixing.

Scarlet fever cases have also seen a massive jump. There were 851 cases reported in the week November 14 to 20, compared to an average of 186 for the same timeframe in previous years.

Earlier, health officials confirmed a youngster from St John’s School in Ealing, west London, had died from Strep A, while the parents of a four-year-old boy from Buckinghamshire confirmed he had died from Strep A. It comes after a pupil from Victoria primary school in Penarth, four miles south of Cardiff, also died. Last week, a six-year-old died after an outbreak of the same infection at a school in Surrey.

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