Six youngsters die from invasive Strep A in the UK in weeks amid rise in cases

  • ITV New's Mary Nightingale and Sejal Karial report on the latest Strep A outbreak as cases rise across the UK

A child in west London has been confirmed as one of six youngsters to die after contracting invasive Strep A in the UK in recent weeks.

Health experts investigation the outbreak have confirmed the deaths of six young children and a rise in cases.

The child in London, whose name and age has not been released, was a pupil at St John's Primary School in Green Man Gardens, Ealing.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed the child's death to ITV News and said it is working with Ealing Council to provide public health advice and support to the school.

The body confirmed 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.

On Thursday a primary school pupil in Wales died after contracting an invasive strep A infection.

The cases follow the death of a six-year-old child in Surrey in late November, after an outbreak of an "invasive" bacteria at a primary school in Ashford.

A four-year-old boy from Buckinghamshire died from Strep A on 14 November, his parents have confirmed.

Muhammad Ibrahim Ali died at his home after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Responding to the latest death in Ealing, Dr Yimmy Chow, health protection consultant at UKHSA London, said: "We are extremely saddened to hear about the death of a child at St John’s Primary School, and our thoughts are with their family, friends and the school community.

"Working with Ealing Council public health team, we have provided precautionary advice to the school community to help prevent further cases and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

Streptococcal bacteria under a microscope Credit: PA

"Group A streptococcal infections usually result in mild illness, and information has been shared with parents and staff about the signs and symptoms.

"These include a sore throat, fever and minor skin infections, and can be treated with a full course of antibiotics from the GP.

"In rare incidences, it can be a severe illness and anyone with high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea should call NHS 111 and seek medical help immediately."

St John's School declined to comment on the pupil's death.

Group A strep bacteria can cause many different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases.

Strep A is known to cause scarlet fever, which has seen an increase in England in 2022. There were 15,894 annual cases recorded up to September, up from 14,704 during the same period in 2020-2021.

With multiple viral infections - including chicken pox - circulating among children, the risk increases that scarlet fever could have a greater severity because the body's ability to fight infections is reduced when battling two infections at once.

Scarlet fever is usually recognised by a rash accompanied by a sore throat. Credit: NHS

The Year One pupil who attended Ashford Church of England Primary School, developed invasive Strep A, a more severe infection, after first having scarlet fever.

Invasive Strep A comes from the same bacteria that causes scarlet fever entering parts of the body that it doesn't normally reach, for example, the blood.

The same bacteria which causes invasive Strep A and scarlet fever also causes tonsillitis and strep throat.

These infections are easily treated with antibiotics if caught early enough, but if the bacteria does reach the blood, then it releases toxins. This can lead to shock, sepsis or pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of scarlet fever?

The symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat, headache, high temperature (38.3C or above), flushed face and swollen tongue. The distinctive pink-red rash develops 12 to 48 hours later.

As well as the rash, other symptoms include swollen neck glands, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, red lines in the folds of the body, such as the armpit, which may last a couple of days after the rash has gone. A white coating on the tongue, which peels a few days later leaving the tongue red and swollen (this is known as strawberry tongue).

What are the main symptoms of StRep A?

Strep A is a highly contagious bacterial infection that can be extremely serious, but is treatable.

It's more common in children than adults and is most common in children aged five to 15.

The illness is very rare in children younger than three-years-old.

It can cause a lot of different illness, but tends to begin with a few typical symptoms.

These symptoms include:

  • A rash

  • Sore throat

  • Flushed cheeks

  • A swollen tongue

  • Severe muscle aches

  • High fever

  • Localised muscle tenderness

  • Redness at the site of a wound.

It is spread through coughs and sneezes with cases most common during the winter period.

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