GPs have recorded the largest weekly rise so far this year for reports of Invasive Group A Streptococcus infections in England and Wales. The infection remains rare but medics continue to monitor an out of season rise, and the latest update from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) includes a list of all the local authorities to record a new case in the week ending December 18.
Invasive Group A Streptococcus (iGAS) is a rare, but severe and sometimes life-threatening infection caused when Strep A bacteria invade parts of the body it is not normally found, such as the lungs or the bloodstream. Warning signs include fever and severe muscle aches.
Across South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bristol a total of 11 cases this year have been recorded as suspected iGAS. One of those local cases was recorded this week in South Gloucestershire, and contributes to this week's national figure of 25 - the highest number in any given week so far this year.
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Of the 11, four suspected cases were identified in the city, four in South Gloucestershire, and three in North Somerset. So far this year there have been 94 deaths recorded from iGAS across all age groups in England, and 21 of them have been children.
The statistics are from the UKHSA, which GPs have to notify if they diagnose a suspected case of a Strep A infection. Infections are then logged in weekly Notification of Infectious Diseases reports, which have been mapped by the Reach data unit below.
The UKHSA says the number of Strep A infections identified this time around is unusually high for the time of year. In most years, the high point comes from February to April.
In the last high season of Strep A infections (2017-2018) there were a total of 355 deaths, mostly among adults - 27 of the deaths were among those under 18. Over 52 weeks in 2017-18, the last time there were comparatively high figures, there was a total of 2,967 cases.
According to the latest lab-confirmed figures, there have been 960 cases of iGAS in England between September 12 and December 18. These include 214 cases in children under the age of 10. That compares to 311 cases among children under the age of 10 across the full 2017-18 season.
Meanwhile, also between September 12 and December 18 this year, there have been 27,486 notifications of scarlet fever, a manifestation of Strep A infection. That compares to 3,287 at the same point in 2017-18 - although cases began to rise at a different point that year and there were a total of 30,768 scarlet fever notifications overall across the year.
Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of the 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. 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.”
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