FOUR more children in England have died from the invasive Strep A bug, new data has revealed.
This takes the tragic toll to 34 in total in the UK since the season started in mid-September.
Fresh figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show four more children aged under 18 have died in England.
The previous figures released on December 29 showed 25 deaths in England.
Meanwhile two under-10s in Scotland have died since October 3, Public Health Scotland announced last week.
And the deaths of three children from Strep A in Belfast and Wales were been recorded by the UKHSA.
These figures could rise but no updates on these countries were given today.
There have been 151 deaths across all age groups in England this season.
In the 2017 to 2018 season, there were 355 deaths in total, including 27 deaths in children under 18.
It comes as parents are being asked to take up the offer of the flu nasal spray vaccine at school sessions or in community catch-up clinics for their children.
This is especially important, as the NHS says that viral infections such as the flu, put you at higher risk of Strep A infections.
Guidance states that Strep A infections spread by close contact with an infected person.
They can then be passed on through coughs and sneezes or from a wound.
Group A Streptococcus — Streptococcus pyogenes — is a bacteria that can cause mild illness.
This can include sore throats and skin infections, alongside tonsillitis, cellulitis, and scarlet fever, which is flu-like and tends to occur in children – it can be serious if not treated swiftly with antibiotics.
In rare cases, the bacteria can trigger invasive Group Strep A disease, which can prove life-threatening and even fatal.
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.
Dr Obaghe Edeghere, UKHSA incident director, said: “As children return to school, scarlet fever and ‘strep throat’ continue to circulate at high levels and so it is important that we all wash our hands regularly and thoroughly and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue.
“This will help stop germs spreading between children and to other vulnerable groups and will help prevent the spread of other winter illnesses that are currently circulating at high levels, including flu and COVID-19.
“It’s not too late to take up the free flu and COVID-19 vaccines if you’re eligible – we know that Group A Strep infections can be more serious when combined with another infection like flu.
“Most winter illnesses can be managed at home and NHS.UK has information to help parents look after children with mild illness.
“Deaths and serious illness following Group A Strep infection are very rare and the infection can be easily treated with antibiotics.
“Speak to a healthcare professional if you think your child is getting worse, for instance they are feeding or eating less than normal, are dehydrated, have a high temperature that won’t go down, are very hot and sweaty or seem more tired or irritable than normal.”