Child with suspected strep A infection dies in Sussex as death toll reaches 16

A pupil at a Sussex school suspected of having had an invasive Strep A infection has died, bringing the UK-wide death toll to 16.

The pupil, whose age and gender were not given, attended Hove Park School in East Sussex.

UKHSA specialists are working with Brighton and Hove City Council to support the school after the death.

Dr Rachael Hornigold, Health Protection Advisor at UKHSA South East, said: “We are extremely saddened to learn of the death of a child and our thoughts are with their family, friends and the local community.

“Group A streptococcus infection usually causes a sore throat, scarlet fever or a rash and is spread by physical contact or droplets from a sneeze or cough.

“In very rare cases, the infection can become invasive and enter parts of the body where the bacteria are not normally found, which can be serious.

“We will implement public health actions, including advising the city council and the school community.”

The child, whose name, age and gender have been identified, was a pupil of Hove Park School (Google Maps)

Yesterday it was reported that childhood deaths from Strep A, a bacterium normally found in the throat, had risen to 15.

The UKHSA has now recorded 14 fatalities linked to the bacterial infection in England, including deaths in East Sussex, while one child died in Northern Ireland and another in Wales.

Alistair Hill, director of public health at Brighton and Hove City Council, said: ‘We send our deepest condolences to the family, friends and entire school community who will be deeply affected by the tragic loss of this child, and we we are providing them with our support at this incredibly sad time.

“While we cannot comment on individual cases, we ask that the family’s privacy be respected.

“As a precaution, we have also worked closely with the school to educate parents and healthcare professionals about the signs and symptoms of group A strep infections and what to do if a child develops such infections, including invasive strep disease. group A (iGAS).”

Stella-Lily McCorkindale, Muhammad Ibrahim Ali and Hannah Roap all died after strep A infection (PA/Family handout)

Stella-Lily McCorkindale, Muhammad Ibrahim Ali and Hannah Roap all died after strep A infection (PA/Family handout)

He said he wanted to emphasize that contracting iGAS from another person is “very rare” and that most people who come into contact with group A strep infections “remain healthy and symptom-free – and therefore not there is reason to keep the children at home if well”.

It follows official data released on Wednesday which revealed that cases of scarlet fever had increased tenfold in a year.

UKHSA data showed a huge increase in scarlet fever cases in England and Wales compared to last year, with 23,000 cases in the year to date, compared to just 2,300 for the same period in 2021.

Infections in the last half of the year were also more than three times higher than the average for the previous five years.

Group A strep bacteria can cause many different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to life-threatening illnesses.

Diseases caused by strep A include impetigo skin infection, scarlet fever, and strep throat.

Although the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bacteria cause a life-threatening illness called invasive group A strep disease.

The UKHSA said there is no current evidence that a new strain is circulating and that the increase in cases is most likely due to the high amount of circulating bacteria and increased social mixing.

WHAT PARENTS HAVE BEEN ADVISED TO DO IF A CHILD IS NOT WELL

UK Health Security Agency advice on Strep A

The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including high fever, sore throat, and swollen glands in the neck (a large lump on the side of the neck).

A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later. It looks like small, raised bumps and starts on the chest and belly, then spreads out. The rash makes the skin feel rough, like sandpaper. The rash will be less visible on darker skin, but will still feel like sandpaper.

Contact NHS 111 or your doctor if:

  • your child is getting worse

  • your child feeds or eats much less than normal

  • your child has a dry diaper for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration

  • your baby is less than 3 months old and has a temperature of 38°C, or is over 3 months old and has a temperature of 39°C or higher

  • your baby feels hotter than usual when you touch his back or chest or gets sweaty

  • your child is very tired or irritable

Call 999 or go to the emergency room if:

  • your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting or belly sucking under the ribs

  • there are pauses when your child breathes

  • your child’s skin, tongue, or lips are blue

  • your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake

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