Dr Hilary lists 'red flag symptoms' of Strep A
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It comes as Stella-Lily McCorkindale became the ninth child to die from the bacterial infection in recent months. The five-year-old from Belfast died on Monday after being admitted to hospital last week.
Her father, Robert, told wellwishers on Facebook: “If prayers, thoughts, feelings and love could have worked, she would have walked out of that hospital holding her daddy’s hand.”
Parents of her schoolmates at Black Mountain Primary, were asked to take them to a clinic to receive preventative antibiotics.
Fears over the infection have sparked a surge in calls to the NHS 111 service and worried parents turning up at A&E departments.
UK Health Security Agency deputy director, Dr Colin Brown, said health protection teams could prescribe antibiotics to “either a group of children in certain classes or an entire nursery school”.
He said there was no evidence a new strain of Strep A was responsible for the increase in cases.
But he said lack of mixing during Covid could have left more children vulnerable and brought forward the start of the usual spring scarlet fever season.
Strep A can cause infections including skin condition impetigo, scarlet fever and Strep throat.
In rare, serious, cases they can develop into invasive group A Strep (iGAS), when the bacteria gets into areas such as the lungs, blood or muscles. Common symptoms include high fever, severe muscle aches, tenderness in one part of the body and redness at a wound site.
Dr Brown said parents should look out for lack of urine, a floppy and unresponsive child, difficulty breathing, or anything out of the ordinary – particularly following a bad sore throat, scarlet fever or a respiratory illness.
Aimee Byron, 22, whose sons Jamie, three, and Drew, 17 months, had Strep A, said she knew something was wrong when Jamie became drowsy and screamed in pain while holding his head. After a phone consultation, the family GP diagnosed tonsillitis. But after looking at online photos, Aimee took him to hospital, where Strep A infection was confirmed.
A day later, Drew was diagnosed after developing a sore throat, red spots near his mouth and white puffy ones on his tonsils.
Aimee, of Fareham, Hants, said: “I know doctors have done years studying, but I know my child. I am so unbelievably lucky to have my Jamie at home getting better, when this story could have had such a devastating end.”
Paediatrics expert Professor Adam Finn, of Bristol University, said: “We’re not used in our society to losing the lives of previously healthy children. This is something that’s very shocking and concerning.”
Prof Finn said a balance must be struck between not alarming parents of children with mild illnesses and encouraging those with more serious symptoms to seek help.
The NHS said there had been more demand for 111 phone and online services, partly due to Strep A concerns.
Meanwhile, visits to hospital A&E departments from the “worried well” have increased, according to the Health Service Journal.
Prof Finn said children with run-of-the-mill viral infections can feel unwell and then better as “things go up and down”.
But he warned: “Children who’ve got invasive bacterial infection just get worse and worse. When you see that progressive decline, that’s the time to get the child to medical attention.”
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