Scarlet fever cases rise to 17,695 as 19 children die in Strep A outbreak

The number of cases of scarlet fever in England has risen to 17,695 – compared to just 2,538 at the same point last year.

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection, caused by group A bacteria – in rare cases, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause a potentially fatal invasive illness.

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Scarlet fever cases are on the riseCredit: Getty
The map above shows the areas where Strep A deaths have occurred in the UK

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The map above shows the areas where Strep A deaths have occurred in the UK

The first symptoms of scarlet fever can appear flu-like, and include a high fever, sore throat, and swollen neck glands as well as a rash that can resemble sandpaper.

The same bacteria can cause other, less serious conditions, including strep throat, tonsillitis, skin infections, impetigo, and cellulitis.

But, as cases of Strep A have risen across the UK, so have the more serious cases of scarlet fever and invasive group A disease.

The outbreak has so far killed 19 children, who are believed to have died of Strep A.

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Experts said earlier that virus cases had spiked earlier this year, which could be an indirect effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, health officials do not believe that the number of cases of scarlet fever has peaked just yet.

The increase in the number of cases is putting huge pressure on NHS 111 and pharmacists, with shortages of penicillin and other antibiotics being reported across the UK.

According to the World Health Organization, cases of Strep A are circulating in large numbers in other European countries, including France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Meanwhile, parents flood NHS 111 phone lines in panic over an outbreak of Strep A in children

The surge in concern from Britons comes as nurses across the country today took a stand on strike in a pay deal.

On Monday, a minister warned that grandparents are more likely to die from Strep A than their grandchildren.

Maria Caulfield, speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, said the “vast majority” of those who died of Strep A this year were over the age of 65.

The warning comes just days before millions of families across the country gather to celebrate Christmas.

New data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) suggests that at least 34 people over the age of 65 have died of wrongful death in England since September, with cases continuing to rise.

What are the symptoms of invading group A bacteria?

There are four main signs of Strep A to watch out for, according to the NHS. and this is:

  1. Fever (temperature over 38°C)
  2. severe muscle pain
  3. Localized muscle tenderness
  4. Redness at the wound site

The invasive version of the disease occurs when bacteria breach the body’s immune defences.

This can happen if you are already feeling unwell or have a weak immune system.

Infections caused by Strep A range from minor illnesses to serious and potentially fatal diseases.

Skin infections include impetigo, scarlet fever, and strep throat.

While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, the bacteria can cause a life-threatening disease called invasive group A streptococcus disease.

The bacteria are spread by contact with an infected person or by contact with infected skin lesions.

The bacteria can be passed from person to person through close touch, such as kissing or skin-to-skin contact.

The risk of spreading is greatest when someone is sick, such as when people have a sore throat or an infected wound.


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