Group ‘A’ Streptococcus Claims Lives of More than a Dozen Kids in Britain; Parents & Health Officials Concerned
By: Serach Nissim
This season in the United Kingdom, parents and health officials are concerned about the invasive Group A streptococcus. The bacteria has already claimed more than a dozen children’s lives. “We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual,” said Dr. Colin Brown, the deputy director of the U.K. Health Security Agency, on Friday in a news release. Known simply as strep, usually the bacteria justcauses mild infections, however, in rare cases it has been seen to lead to more severe sickness.
As reported by the NY Times, Dr. Brown asked parents to be aware of symptoms and see a doctor in a timely manner if a child began showing symptoms. “Although there are more cases this year, the infection itself is no more dangerous than in previous years,” said Jim McManus, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health in Britain. He said there has actually been a steady rise in strep A since 2016, except for during the Covid-19 pandemic, when masks and other measures helped bugs from spreading. “Now we are mixing as usual, the infection is spreading and with increased numbers of infections there is sadly an increase in numbers of severe cases,” McManus said. “This also means that there is tragically an increase in numbers of people dying.”
Group A streptococcus can be found in the throat or the skin, and is fairly common. It can cause a sore throat, tonsillitis, skin rashes, scarlet fever or impetigo. In some cases, where the immune system is not strong enough, it can rarely enter the bloodstream, becoming a more dangerous illness known as invasive Group A streptococcus, or iGAS. The bacteria can even prove fatal when it leads into necrotizing fasciitis, necrotizing pneumonia or streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
As per the Times, the bacteria is highly contagious and can be spread by another person who coughs or sneezes nearby or by direct contact with a wound. Health officials added that Group A streptococcus can also sometimes be passed on by healthy people who get the bacteria, but don’t exhibit symptoms—although this risk is lower. A person with mild strep stops being contagious to others after taking antibiotics for about 24 hours. Regular symptoms include sore throat, fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a rash. Parents should seek medical attention if the condition does not improve but deteriorates after a few days, including if there is dehydration, loss of appetite, a constant tired feeling or trouble breathing.
On Friday, the U.K. Health Security Agency disclosed that 13 children under the age of 18 died in England after being diagnosed with invasive Group Astreptococcus, as of Thursday. Across all age groups there were a total of 60 deaths this season in England, as per the Times. There were more deaths also reported in Northern Ireland and Wales. The majority of cases continue to appear in patients over 45.
Health officials are urging people to continue good hygiene practices including washing hands with warm water and soap, as well as covering a cough or sneeze with