GPs told to act quickly on Strep A as seventh child dies from infection

Doctors were asked to set a “low threshold” for sending children with possible Strep A infection to hospital

Doctors are urged to act quickly in giving antibiotics to children with suspected symptoms of Strep A to give them the best chance of fighting off the infection.

The heads of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have issued an urgent public health alert to GPs asking them to set a ‘low threshold’ for sending potentially infected children to hospital and to provide medicines early.

The alert has been sent to all GPs, urgent care centres, A&Es, children’s services and infectious diseases after concern grew over the number of infections. He reminds doctors to quickly notify public health teams about cases so they can begin contact tracing.

The UK Health Services Authority (UKHSA) said there had been a rise in the number of rare group A streptococcus bacteria this year, particularly in children under 10, with five under-10 deaths in England since September.

There were 2.3 cases of Strep A infection per 100,000 children aged one to four years in England, compared to an average of 0.5 before the pandemic. There were also 1.1 cases per 100,000 children ages 5 to 9 compared to the pre-pandemic average of 0.3.

The UKHSA letter says: “Due to the unusually high level of GAS (group A strep) and viral co-course in the community, healthcare professionals are asked to have a low threshold for empirically considering and prescribing antibiotics for children presenting with features of GAS infection, including It is secondary cases of viral respiratory disease. He adds that parents of children with what appears to be a viral infection, such as the flu or chickenpox, should be told about signs that could indicate a “secondary bacterial infection.”

Doctors are urged to act quickly in administering antibiotics to children with suspected symptoms of Strep A (Image: Adobe)

The warning from health directors comes as the father of a four-year-old girl on a ventilator with a Strep A infection said she had been described as “the poorest girl in all of England”.

Camilla Rose Burns, from Bolton, is ‘fighting for her life’ while her family has been ‘living through an absolute nightmare’ since she was admitted to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool last Sunday – 24 hours after being kicked out of A&E with an inhaler as doctors lower her chest pain to retching from repeated vomiting.

Dean Burns said there was a bug spreading around his daughter’s school and she complained of chest pain. Camila was taken to hospital last Saturday (November 26) where she was prescribed an inhaler and told she could go home, but her health deteriorated the next day.

Mr Burns said his daughter had gone from dancingriday night with her friends to feeling “a little bit under the weather on Saturday” and needing emergency care on Monday. He told Sky News: “She has completely changed. She was anxious.” After being returned to the hospital, Camila required life-saving intervention.

Mr Burns added: “Some of the nurses screamed at us and we had to leave the room. They put her to sleep and she’s been on a ventilator ever since, which has kept her alive. It’s the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone.”

What is a Strep A infection?

Group A streptococcus bacteria can cause many different types of infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases, including skin infections, impetigo, scarlet fever, and strep throat.

The vast majority of infections are relatively mild, but sometimes bacteria cause a life-threatening disease called invasive group A streptococcus disease after spreading to other parts of the body, such as the blood, deep muscles, or lungs.

Necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome are the most severe forms of invasive disease, but they are rare. Necrotizing fasciitis is also known as “flesh-eating disease” and can occur if a wound becomes infected, while streptococcal toxic shock syndrome is a rapidly progressing infection that causes hypotension/shock and damage to organs such as the kidneys, liver, and lungs. This type of toxic shock has a high mortality rate.

Dr Colin Brown, Deputy Director of the UKHSA, said: “We are seeing more cases of group A streptococcus infection this year than usual. The bacteria usually cause mild infections leading to strep throat or scarlet fever that are easily treated with antibiotics.

“In very rare cases, these bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause a serious illness – called invasive group A streptococcus (iGAS). This is still not common. However, it is important that parents look out for symptoms and see a doctor as soon as possible. So their child can be treated and we can prevent the infection from becoming serious.

“Be sure to speak to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, strep throat, or a respiratory infection.”

Advice for parents

Health officials urge parents to contact NHS 111 or their GP if their child is getting worse, feeding or eating much less than usual, has been nappy dry for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration.

They should also seek help if their baby is less than three months old with a temperature of 38C, or if they are older than three months old with a temperature of 39C or higher. A very tired or irritable child is also a red flag.

If a child is having difficulty breathing, such as making grunting sounds or sucking their stomach under their ribs, has paused breathing, has blue skin, tongue or lips, or is floppy and unresponsive, parents should call 999 or go to A&E .