Strep A: dozens of North West cases recorded as Bolton schoolgirl fights for life in hospital

The North West also has the highest rates in the country for scarlet fever, which is caused by the same bacteria.
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There have been dozens of cases of invasive Group A strep in the North West in recent months as the current rate for the condition in England for young children aged one to four is four times higher than normal.

There had been seven deaths of children under 13 in the UK recorded by Monday (6 December). Parents concerned about a seriously ill child should seek medical advice, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

The invasive condition is caused by a bacteria called group A streptococci, which usually causes mild illnesses such as strep throat. In very rare occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause invasive Group A strep. With the help of the data team at our sister title NationalWorld we have taken a look at the latest case numbers for the condition along with scarlet fever, which is caused by the same bacteria.

What does the data show for our area?

Figures are only available from the UKHSA for each region of England, with the latest data covering a 10-week period in September, October and November.

During that time there were 74 cases of invasive Group A strep in the North West, giving a rate of one case per 100,000 residents.

This is slightly higher than the rate for England as a whole, which recorded 510 cases of the condition in that time.

The North West also has the country’s highest rates of scarlet fever at the moment. In the latest 10-week period there were 957 cases, or a rate of 13 per 100,000 people.

What has been said about invasive Group A strep?

A number of children have died in England of invasive Group A strep in recent weeks, while a four-year-old girl Camila Rose Burns from Bolton is fighting for her life on a ventilator in hospital in Liverpool. Her family have told the media they are “praying for a miracle”.

Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of the UKHSA, said: “We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual. The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics. In very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep.

“This is still uncommon; however, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious. Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”

Across England, infection rates have risen most dramatically among children aged one to four, with 2.3 cases per 100,000 people- four times higher than the average rates in the three years to March 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic. And infection rates among children aged five to nine have tripled compared to this three-year average.

Health officials are investigating the rise but say there is currently no evidence that a new strain is circulating.

What are scarlet fever symptoms?

Rates of scarlet fever, which is caused by the same bacteria, are also about four times higher than average.

Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious. Parents are advised to look out for symptoms in their child like a sore throat, headache, and fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel. On darker skin, the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will feel like sandpaper.

Parents are advised to call 999 or go to A&E if their child is having difficulty breathing, there are pauses when their child breathes, the skin, tongue or lips are blue or the child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake.