DESPERATE parents are flooding NHS phone lines in a panic about the Strep A outbreak in kids.
Calls to 111 rocketed to 706,129 last week – up 60 per cent from 440,047 the previous week.
Only the first two weeks of the Covid pandemic have seen more calls, data from the NHS shows.
At least 17 children are confirmed or suspected to have died of Strep A since September.
Last week the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said 16 children have died from the illness.
Public Health Wales and Powys Teaching Health Board are investigating whether the death of another child is linked to an invasive Strep A infection, if confirmed, it will bring the total to 17.
Pharmacists say supplies of antibiotics are going from bad to worse due to a demand surge.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, medical director at NHS England, said: “This huge increase in calls to NHS 111 is understandable with concerns about winter viruses, including Strep A.
“It is more important than ever that the public uses 111 online where possible.”
The increase in concern from Brits comes as nurses up and down the country have today taken to the picket line to strike in a deal over pay.
The health service said it’s been preparing extensively for both strikes and winter, with plans in place to manage additional demand.
Prof Powis added: “With industrial action planned today and next week, NHS teams are working hard to minimise disruption and while people may see their local services impacted, they must continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency during strikes, as well as attending pre-booked appointments as planned unless they have been contacted for it be rearranged.
“Earlier this month I warned of a ‘perfect storm’ of winter pressures but the NHS has prepared like never before with the rollout of falls response services, system control centres, additional equivalent beds and extra call handlers so please do come forward for the care you need and get your Covid and flu vaccines if you are eligible.”
Both flu and Covid are continuing to circulate and the data shows that the number of patients with flu in general and the use of acute beds every day last week – is up a third on the week before.
Patients experiencing the most serious illness from flu was also up, with 87 patients in critical care beds – almost 50 per cent higher than the previous week.
Data from the UKHSA previously confirmed that cases of flu were up and have urged those eligible to come forward for their flu jabs.
Parents are also being asked to take up the offer of the flu nasal spray vaccine at school sessions or in community catch-up clinics for their children.
It’s especially important, as the NHS says that viral infections such as the flu, put you at higher risk of Strep A infections.
Guidance states that Strep A infections spread by close contact with an infected person.
They can then be passed on through coughs and sneezes or from a wound.
Group A Streptococcus — Streptococcus pyogenes — is a bacteria that can cause mild illness.
This can include sore throats and skin infections, alongside tonsillitis, cellulitis, and scarlet fever, which is flu-like and tends to occur in children – it can be serious if not treated swiftly with antibiotics.
In rare cases, the bacteria can trigger invasive Group Strep A disease, which can prove life-threatening and even fatal.