Warning symptoms of Strep A infection as UKHSA confirms 151 deaths in England so far this winter

The UK Health Security Agency has warned Strep A infections “remain high”

A total of 151 people have died after contracting Strep A in England so far this winter and infections still “remain high”, health chiefs have warned.

The latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) covers all age groups and includes the deaths of 29 children under the age of 18 in England so far this season, between 19 September and 1 January. This compares to a total of 355 deaths at the same point in the year during the last comparably high season in 2017 to 2018, which included 27 deaths among children under 18.

Public Health Wales has been notified of the deaths of five deaths of children under the age of 15 in whom invasive group A streptococcal infections (iGAS) was detected since 1 September 2022, and the death of a child from iGas has also been reported in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Public Health Scotland (PHS) said it was aware of 13 deaths among iGAS cases over the period between 3 October and 8 January 2023. The latest update from PHS states: “PHS is aware of 13 deaths amongst iGAS cases that appear to meet the case definition between 3 October and 8 January 2023, an increase of one death since the previous report.

“Two of these deaths were in children under 10 years of age, no change since the previous report. This compares with between zero and seven deaths reported during the same time period of previous years.”

Infections caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat. The vast majority of these infections are relatively mild, but sometimes the bacteria causes a life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS).

Invasive disease happens when the bacteria get past your body’s immune defences and invade other parts of the body, such as the blood, deep muscle or lungs. Two of the most severe, but rare, forms of invasive disease are necrotising fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.

The UKHSA said cases of iGAS infections remain rare but are currently still higher than seen in a typical year. Data shows there have been 159 iGAS cases in children aged 1 to 4 so far this season. This compares to 194 cases in that age group across the whole year of the last comparably high season in 2017 to 2018.

There have been 118 cases in children aged 5 to 9 years compared to 117 across the whole year of the last comparably high season in 2017 to 2018. The majority of iGAS cases continue to be in those over 45 years.

Dr Obaghe Edeghere, UKHSA incident director, said: “It is important that we all wash our hands regularly and thoroughly and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue. This will help stop germs spreading between children and to other vulnerable groups and will help prevent the spread of other winter illnesses that are currently circulating at high levels, including flu and Covid-19.

“It’s not too late to take up the free flu and Covid-19 vaccines if you’re eligible – we know that group A strep infections can be more serious when combined with another infection like flu.

“Most winter illnesses can be managed at home and NHS.UK has information to help parents look after children with mild illness. Deaths and serious illness following group A strep infection are very rare and the infection can be easily treated with antibiotics.”

Group A strep bacteria can cause many different infections, including the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat. Listed are the most common symptoms of Strep A to look for, according to the NHS.

Read more:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.