FIVE more children have died from the invasive Strep A bug, new data has revealed.
This takes the tragic toll to 24 – since the season started mid September.
Fresh figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) today revealed that there have been 94 deaths across all age groups in England since September.
Scarlet fever – caused by the Strep A infection – continues to soar in England as 27,486 cases of the illness have now been recorded between September 12 and December 18.
This compares to a total of 3,287 at the same point in the year during the last comparably high season in 2017 to 2018.
In 2017 to 2018 there were 30,768 scarlet fever notifications overall across the year.
The UKHSA said there have been 21 deaths in children under the age of 18 across England, and there have also been three deaths across Wales and Northern Ireland, bringing the grim total to 24.
One known victim, little Hanna Roap, died within 24-hours of falling ill with invasive Strep A.
The seven-year-old’s condition had started with a mild cough.
Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, four, from High Wycombe, Bucks, also died from the illness.
Jax Albert Jefferys’, who attended Morelands Primary School in Waterlooville, also died from the condition.
Stella-Lily McCorkindale fell severely ill at the end of November and and was treated in hospital before she tragically passed away from Strep A.
In the 2017 to 2018 season, there were 355 deaths in children, including 27 in children under the age of 18.
The surge in cases is putting a huge strain on NHS 111 and pharmacists, with shortages of penicillin and other antibiotics reported across the UK.
Last week, pharmacists in England were given new powers to prescribe an alternative to penicillin in order to treat Strep A as supplies of the drug dwindle.
Cases of the deadly bug are also circulating in high numbers in other European countries, including France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, according to the WHO.
Dr Colin Brown, Deputy Director of the UKHSA said it’s understandable that the rise in Strep A and scarlet fever is ‘concerning’ for parents.
“However the condition can be easily treated with antibiotics and it is very rare that a child will go on to become more seriously ill.
“At this time of year, there are lots of winter illnesses circulating that can make children unwell and I would urge all those eligible for free winter vaccines to take advantage of these.
“Most winter illnesses can be managed at home and NHS.UK has information to help parents look after children with mild illness.
“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,” he added.
Meanwhile, parents are flooding NHS 111 phone lines in a panic about the Strep A outbreak in kids.
The increased concern comes as ambulance workers and NHS staff have taken to the picket line this week in a row over pay.
And today, new data from NHS England revealed that the number of patients in hospital with the flu has increased by two thirds in one week amid significant pressure on services.
Data shows that on average, there was around 1,939 flu cases in England’s hospitals every day last week, up from 1,162 the week before.
In mid-December last year, the NHS only had two flu patients a day in critical care and 32 in general and acute beds.
Alongside this, there has been increase in demand for NHS 111 services with 721,301 calls last week – up from 706,129 the week before.
The rise in demand is understood to be partly driven by parents concerned about symptoms of Strep A, the NHS states.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “As well as the impact of industrial action last week, it is clear that the NHS is facing enormous pressure ahead of Christmas with the number of flu cases in hospital and in intensive care rising week-on-week, on top of significant increases in staff sickness rates and near-record demand for services like 111.
“The NHS has prepared for winter extensively with more beds, extra call handlers as well as the expansion of falls response services, control centres and respiratory hubs, but with flu hospitalisations and Covid cases on the rise, the best things you can do to protect yourself is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible.”
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