Risk factors include inadequate housing, homelessness and poor ventilation, with schools, hospitals and care homes the most common environments for transmission
There has been a significant rise in ‘strep A’ infection in the UK, which has led to the deaths of at least 15 children. In early December, the body which monitors infectious diseases, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), issued an alert highlighting the risks.
Strep A can cause a range of different health issues, including the skin-infection impetigo, strep throat and scarlet fever. The majority of infections are relatively mild, but the bacteria can also cause a life-threatening illness called invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) disease.
Public health officials have attributed the rise to high amounts of circulating bacteria and increased social mixing.
Data from the UKHSA in mid-December revealed that the South East of England was experiencing the highest number of strep A and scarlet fever infections, followed by the North West of England.
Dr Colin Brown, Deputy Director of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be treated with antibiotics. In very rare circumstances, these bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness.
“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.”
Rachel Partridge, Deputy Director of Public Health for Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Councils, was keen to stress that there were well-established processes in place to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. She said: “We work closely with families, schools and partners such as UKHSA South West and continue to share information with schools about any measures they need to take, including advice for parents.”
The risk factors for strep A infections include inadequate housing, homelessness, overcrowding, sharing of personal items, poor ventilation, and low socioeconomic status.
The risk factors for strep A infections include inadequate housing, homelessness, overcrowding, sharing of personal items, poor ventilation, and low socioeconomic status. The most common environments for transmission include schools, hospitals and care homes.
Ross Matthewman, CIEH head of policy and campaigns, said that the Institute had highlighted the unique role of EHPs in supporting efforts to control the recent outbreak of strep A in schools and the strong work already being taken by the profession behind the scenes.
He said: “EHPs have a vital role in protecting the public and were instrumental in enforcing infectious disease control measures during Covid-19 such as business closures and social distancing measures. CIEH has been in contact with the relevant officials, agencies, and government departments to promote the vital contribution that our members can make.
“We remain steadfast in our desire to support any coordinated response that may need to be taken with respect to controlling the recent strep A outbreak that has been affecting schools."
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