The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is warning of an unseasonable spike in invasive Group A Streptococcus (iGAS) infections across the country, as well as more cases than usual within a year. The public health protection agency’s database publishes weekly suspected case numbers for each local authority in England and Wales. Check Express.co.uk’s map below to see how your neighbourhood fares…
According to the UKHSA there have now been 122 confirmed deaths from iGAS infections across England since September 19, including 25 children under the age of 18.
The majority of cases are mild, but on rare occasions Strep A can cause a severe and sometimes life-threatening infection when the bacteria penetrates the body’s defences and attacks lungs, muscles or the bloodstream.
Strep A bacteria can lead to a range of illnesses, including scarlet fever and strep throat. Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of UKHSA, said: “Scarlet fever and strep throat will make children feel unwell, but can be easily treated with antibiotics.
“Symptoms to look out for include fever, sore throat, swollen glands, difficulty swallowing, and headache. Scarlet fever causes a sandpapery rash on the body and a swollen tongue.”
READ MORE: Inside A&E as NHS faces crisis and beds are ’98 percent’ full
iGAS infections and the illnesses they can cause are notifiable conditions tracked on a weekly basis by UKHSA, alongside diseases such as monkeypox, tuberculosis and measles.
GPs log suspected cases into Notification of Infectious Diseases (NOIDs) reports, which are complemented by lab-confirmed cases.
The NOIDs report for the week ending December 18 shows doctors identified 25 potential cases of iGAS – the highest total during a seven-day period this year.
Check our interactive map below to find out how many potential Strep A infections have been recorded in your area…
There have been 33,836 suspected cases of scarlet fever so far this season, relative to just 4,672 at the same point between 2017 and 2018.
Although scarlet fever notifications also rose later that season, the 52-week total of 30,768 has already been surpassed.
UKHSA has now said the number of cases recorded in each of the past three weeks was higher than in any week since records began in 1982.
The surge in infections comes at a time when the NHS is under acute pressure, with record delays for treatment as staff engage in strike action over better pay.
Dr Brown added: “NHS services are under huge pressure this winter, but please visit nhs.uk, contact 111 online or your GP surgery if your child has symptoms of scarlet fever or strep throat so they can be assessed for treatment.
“At this time of year, there are lots of winter illnesses circulating that can make children unwell. Most of these can be managed at home and nhs.uk has information to help parents look after children with mild illness.
“It is very rare that a child will go on to become more seriously ill, but as parents you know better than anyone else what your child is usually like, so you’ll know when they are not responding as they would normally.
“Make sure you speak to a healthcare professional if your child is getting worse after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat or respiratory infection – look out for signs such as a fever that won’t go down, dehydration, extreme tiredness, intense muscle pains, difficulty breathing or breathing very fast.”