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Edinburgh Live
Edinburgh Live
Katie Williams

Step A: Warning issued to Scottish parents buying home test kits as infections rise

Strep A infections are rising across the UK, leading to home-test kits being sold out online.

With the news of the illness spreading, The Guardian reported that online home-test kits for Strep A sold out from online retailers. The home-test kits are similar to covid tests, that require a swab, but they are not available to buy through NHS Scotland.

This comes as a 16th child died in England due to the illness last week. So far, no children have died in Scotland but Public Health Scotland have reported that there has been a rise in cases this year in comparison to previous years.

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NHS Inform stresses that if parents think their child has Strep A and needs to be tested, they should go to the GP or other healthcare professional who will offer the correct advice.

Currently testing involves a doctor taking a swab which is sent off to a lab to be checked. It is then confirmed whether or not the person has Strep A and will be contacted.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said on Friday: “We’re not advising using those [tests] for the time being.

“It is a clinical diagnosis. It is not too difficult to make. So long as the parent watches their child and brings their child in, then we are more than happy to see them.”

Group A strep bacteria can cause many different infections, including scarlet fever and strep throat. While the majority of infections are mild, the bacteria can sometimes cause a serious illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there has been a rise in rare invasive Group A strep this year, particularly in children under 10. NHS Lothian has not confirmed if there are cases in the area, but several have been detected in Ayrshire and 25 cases in total were recorded in Scotland in November.

Step A commonly presents itself as scarlet fever, however, more serious infections, such as when the bacteria gets into the bloodstream are rare.

Public Health Scotland (PHS) is monitoring the situation and published an update on the situation.

Dr Nick Phin, Director of Public Health Science at PHS, said: “The bacteria causing scarlet fever, and related infections, is usually found in the throat and on the skin.

“We would, therefore, encourage adults to ensure children wash their hands frequently with soap and water, and to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze and then put the used tissue in the bin. These simple actions can help to reduce the spread of common infections like Group A strep.

“If your child is showing signs of scarlet fever, please seek advice from a health professional as most cases respond promptly to early treatment with antibiotics.

“PHS continues to work closely with NHS Boards, as well as public health colleagues across the UK, to monitor the situation.”

Scarlet fever causes the following symptoms: headache, sore throat, high temperature and raised pink/purple spots that join up to produce a skin rash, which feels like sandpaper to the touch.More information on scarlet fever, including when to seek medical advice, can be found on NHS Inform.


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