Strep A: At least 24 children have now died from invasive illness, new figures show
A further five children have now died across the UK from invasive Strep A disease, according to new figures.
The increase now means at least 24 children under the age of 18 have lost their lives, including 21 in England, two in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, the overall number of people to have died in England during the past four months from Strep A now stands at 94.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), nearly half (41%) of the deaths were among people aged 75 and over.
News of an increase in child deaths due to Strep A comes as infections from the disease are driving "near record" demand for NHS 111 services.
Data has shown there were 721,301 calls to NHS 111 services last week, up from 706,129 the week before.
NHS England said the level of demand was "significantly" more than usual for this time of year, up almost 60% from the 452,644 calls in the equivalent week in 2021.
Officials believe the rise in demand to be partly driven by parents concerned about symptoms of Strep A.
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Dr Colin Brown, Deputy Director, UKHSA, said: "I understand how this large rise in scarlet fever and 'strep throat' may be concerning to parents, however the condition can be easily treated with antibiotics and it is very rare that a child will go on to become more seriously ill.
"At this time of year, there are lots of winter illnesses circulating that can make children unwell and I would urge all those eligible for free winter vaccines to take advantage of these."
A number of different infections can be caused by Group A strep bacteria, varying from minor illnesses to deadly diseases.
Skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat are among the illnesses which can be caused by Strep A.
On occasion the bacteria causes a life threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal (iGAS) disease, but the vast majority of infections it leads to are relatively mild.
The UKHSA has said there is no current evidence that a new strain is circulating and the rise in cases is most likely due to high amounts of circulating bacteria and increased social mixing.
Anyone concerned their child has Strep A is urged to call 111 immediately.
What are the main symptoms of Strep A?
Strep A bacteria can cause a lot of different illness, but it tends to begin with a few typical symptoms, which include:
A swollen tongue
Severe muscle aches
Localised muscle tenderness
Redness at the site of a wound