What are the symptoms of Strep A? How does it spread? And is it the same as scarlet fever? Everything you need to know about the killer bug sweeping Britain
- Four school children in England and Wales have died after contracting Strep A
- Symptoms of include sore throat, flushed cheeks, high fever and skin sores
- The killer bug spreads through cough droplets, sneezes and skin-to-skin contact
Four primary school children have died after contracting Strep A.
The Strep A bacteria can be life-threatening and lead to scarlet fever, which was rife in the Victorian Era.
Within the space of a week a school child in Wales, West London, Surrey and a child in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire have lost their lives to the kill bug.
Here is everything you need to know about the Strep A bacteria outbreak:
Although Strep A can cause a lot of different serious illnesses, it tends to begin with a few typical symptoms. This includes a rash, a sore throat, flushed cheeks, muscle aches, a high fever, an ear infection and sores on the skin
Strep A (medically known as Group A Streptococcus or Group A Strep) are bacteria which are commonly found in in the throat, skin and respiratory tract and some people have no symptoms.
But Strep A can trigger infections in these parts of the body, including strep throat, tonsillitis and impetigo — a skin infection.
But it can cause scarlet fever and lead to rheumatic fever if it is untreated.
While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bacteria cause life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.
What is invasive Group A Streptococcal disease?
Invasive Group A Strep disease can be a life-threatening infection.
This can happen when the bacteria invade parts of the body, such as the blood, deep muscle or lungs.
Two of the most severe, but rare, forms of invasive disease are necrotising fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
Necrotising fasciitis is also known as the ‘flesh-eating disease’ and can occur if a wound gets infected.
Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome is a rapidly progressing infection causing low blood pressure/shock and damage to organs such as the kidneys, liver and lungs.
This type of toxic shock has a high death rate.
What are the symptoms of strep A?
Although Strep A can cause a lot of different serious illnesses, it tends to begin with a few typical symptoms.
The signs of a Strep A infection include a rash, a sore throat, flushed cheeks, muscle aches, a high fever, tiredness, an ear infection and sores on the skin.
Those with these symptoms should call 111 immediately.
The symptoms should last for a week, according to the NHS.
Some people carrying Strep A do not have any symptoms, but they are still just as likely to pass on the bug as those with a visible illness.
It usually takes two to five days to become ill after being exposed to the bacteria.
How does the bacteria spread?
The killer bug spreads through cough droplets, sneezes, talking and contact with infected skin lesions.
Bacteria can be passed from person to person by close contact such as kissing or skin contact.
In rare cases, Strep A bacteria is spread through food that has not been handled properly.
The bacteria is more likely to spread in crowded places, such as schools, nurseries in households, if someone in the home is infected.
People who have impetigo skin sores caused by Strep A bacteria are advised not to share flannels, sheets or towels with others.
Toys should also be washed or cleaned to help prevent the spread.
People can avoid passing on the illness by washing their hands frequently and coughing into a tissue rather than into their hand.
The killer bug spreads through cough droplets, sneezes, talking and skin-to-skin contact. In rare cases, Strep A bacteria is spread through food that has not been handles properly
Can these illnesses be treated?
Strep A infections such as scarlet fever and impetigo are treated with antibiotics.
After a full 24 hours of antibiotics, people are generally thought to no longer be contagious.
Anyone thought to have invasive Group A Streptococcal disease should seek medical help immediately.
Antibiotics, other drugs and intensive medical attention are likely to be needed.
There is no vaccine currently available for Strep A.
Can it kill?
Most cases of Strep A only cause mild illness such as a sore throat.
But in some instances, it can be life-threatening.
If an infection is left untreated it can cause serious complications, such as toxic shock syndrome, kidney inflammation and scarlet fever.
Severe forms of the disease will usually need to be treated in hospital.
Historically, scarlet fever killed about 20 per cent of people it infected.
In the Victorian era, between 1820 and 1880, there was a global scarlet fever pandemic. There were also several severe epidemics in Europe and North America.
However, since the discovery of penicillin in 1928 at St Mary’s Hospital in London, by Alexander Fleming, the number of deaths from Strep A have been greatly reduced.
The death rate is now less than one per cent.
Strep A is a bacterium which can cause infections in the throat, skin and respiratory tract. If an infection is left untreated it can cause serious complications. Ear infections, toxic shock syndrome and kidney inflammation are all complications that can occur
Are some people more susceptible?
Strep A is more common in children between the ages of five and 15 than adults.
It is also rare in children under three years old.
But adults over the age of 65 are susceptible to the bacteria.
People with weakened immune systems can also have a higher chance of being infected with the bacteria.
This includes people with HIV, AIDS or cancer, or anyone who has had an organ transplant.
People are also at a higher risk of catching Strep A if they are in contact with someone who is infected.
Where is the current Strep A outbreak?
Four school children have died of Strep A as the deadly bacterial outbreak continues to spread across Britain.
Children in South Wales, West London, Surrey and a child in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire have died.
There is no indication that the four deaths are in any way related.
The news comes after two primary school pupils, one in Wales and another in Surrey, died of invasive Strep A less than a week apart
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