KIDS who catch viruses are more at risk of developing the potentially deadly Strep A, which is sweeping the country.
It comes as nine children have died of the invasive form of the disease during the recent outbreak.
The bug can cause many health issues, most of which are mild. They can include scarlet fever, tonsillitis and, very rarely, invasive group A streptococcal disease (iGAS).
Paediatrician, Prof Adam Finn from the University of Bristol told Radio 4 that those kids already infected with viruses could be more at risk to developing the severe form of the disease.
“Virial infection enable bacteria to be more virulent (extremely deadly),” he explained.
“And we’ve currently seeing lots of viral infections,” the expert said.
Experts have found that children who are suffering with the invasive form of the disease are carrying other viruses, Prof Adam said.
England’s top nurse also warned that hospital wards across the country are full of kids battling the illnesses.
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Nine children under 13 have reportedly died of this disease in recent weeks.
Hanna’s father, Hasan, said: “We’re just numb, we don’t know what to do. As a family, we are traumatised and devastated.”
What are the symptoms of invasive group A Strep?
There are four key signs of Group Strep A to watch out for, according to the NHS. These are:
- A fever (meaning a high temperature above 38°C)
- Severe muscle aches
- Localised muscle tenderness
- Redness at the site of a wound
The invasive version of the disease happens when the bacteria break through the body’s immune defences.
This can happen if you’re already feeling unwell or have an immune system that’s weakened.
The dad, who described the pain his family is feeling as “the worst in the world”, is now urging parents to look out for the signs and act quickly.
Health bosses are considering dishing out antibiotics to all children at schools affected by Strep A infections.
However, there is currently a shortage of two frontline antibiotics used to treat the infection.
In response to the outbreak, Downing Street yesterday said it can “fully understand” that parents are concerned by rising Strep A cases, but stressed the NHS is “well prepared” for such situations.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year compared to usual.
“The bacteria we know causes a mild infection which is easily treated with antibiotics and in rare circumstances it can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness.
“It is still uncommon but it’s important parents are on the lookout for symptoms.
“But the NHS is well prepared to deal with situations like this, working with the UK Health Security Agency.”
He said any parents who are concerned should contact the NHS.
The Covid pandemic lockdown is being blamed for the outbreak because children were shuttered away – creating a lower immunity to infections.
Q&A with Sun’ Dr Jeff Foster
Q) What is Strep A?
A) Group A Streptococcus is the name of a bacteria which can cause different infections and is commonly found in children under the age of ten.
Every year doctors will see a lot of children with suspected Strep A. You can get mild cases where you might not even know what it is because they would just have a temperature and a sore throat.
It can become scarlet fever which you can spot if your children develops a rash. It looks like sandpaper and develops around four or five days after the temperature starts.
The child would also get red flushing cheeks.
Q) What is invasive Group A Strep or iGAS?
A) In very rare cases the bacteria can get invade parts of the body including the blood, muscles or lungs.
Early signs and symptoms of such disease include a high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body, redness at the site of a wound and vomiting or diarrhoea.
Q) How does it spread?
A) It is spread by droplets and close contact — through your spit, sneezing, coughing and touching infected surfaces.
It is passed on in the same way as a common cold.
Q) Why has there been such an increase in cases?
A) It is believed to be because during Covid lockdowns young children were not mixing which would usually help to build up the immune system.
If you are constantly exposed to a little bit of Group A Strep and similar bacteria then your immune system would be ready and would nail it when it comes back into contact.
Q) How is it treated?
A) Scarlet fever and impetigo, which are both caused by Strep A, can be treated with antibiotics.
Mild cases which cause a sore throat or a high temperature will usually clear up on their own