United Kingdom

Alert issued to parents after Strep A kills six children in past month

Authorities have given out powerful preventative antibiotics to the teachers and other pupils at schools where a child has caught the infection, it is understood.

Last night Hanna’s parents said their daughter might have survived if a GP had not prescribed her steroids instead of antibiotics.

“She did not get the right medication, if she had been given antibiotics it could have been potentially a different story,” said her father, Abul Roap, 37.

GPs have been instructed to limit their prescriptions of antibiotics as part of an NHS initiative to try to combat the rise in superbugs – bacteria that are resistant to drugs.

The BMA doctors union also resisted moves earlier this year to allow pharmacists to sell antibiotics over the counter, saying the medication is “a precious resource” and should only be given out “when absolutely necessary”.

The UKHSA has encouraged parents to wash hands properly with soap for 20 seconds, use a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes and to keep away from others when feeling unwell.

Parents are urged to contact the 111 service or a GP if their child’s appetite has changed dramatically, or if they have a fever or a dry nappy for over 12 hours. They should call 999 or go to A&E if their child is having difficulty breathing, their skin or lips turn blue, or if they are floppy or cannot stay awake.

Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of the UKHSA, said Strep A cases this year were higher than usual and that it was normally a mild infection which is easily treated with antibiotics.

He also encouraged parents to be on the lookout for signs of Strep A – a sore throat that worsens over time, headache, fever and a red rash which is rough to the touch – and to see a doctor “as soon as possible” to stop the infection getting worse.

“Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection,” Dr Brown said.

Most sore throats and colds are viral infections with it being estimated that 40 per cent of antibiotic prescriptions are for viruses against which the tablets are completely ineffective.

But currently GPs do not have access to any tests to tell them quickly, cheaply, and accurately if a patient is suffering with a viral or bacterial infection.

Jim O’Neil, the economist behind the seminal 2016 review into antimicrobial resistance, has described the situation as “slightly mad”.

During the last high season for invasive Group A Strep infection, in 2017/18, there were four deaths in children under 10.

The UKHSA said there was no evidence that a new strain was circulating, with the increase “most likely related to high amounts of circulating bacteria and social mixing”.

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