CASES of scarlet fever have soared in England to 17,695 – compared to just 2,538 cases at the same point last year.
The outbreak has so far killed 19 children, who are believed to have died of Strep A.
Although cases of the bug have risen earlier this year, which could be a knock-on effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, experts have previously said.
However, health officials do not believe the number of scarlet fever infections has yet peaked, suggesting more deaths are likely.
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.
Meanwhile, parents are flooding NHS 111 phone lines in a panic about the Strep A outbreak in kids
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.
And yesterday a minister warned that grandparents are more at risk of dying from Strep A than their grandkids.
Maria Caulfield, speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, said that “the vast majority” of those who have died of Strep A this year were those aged over 65.
The warning comes just days before millions of families up and down the country get together to celebrate Christmas.
New data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) suggests at least 34 over 65’s have died of the bug in England since September, as cases continue to rise.
Infections caused by Strep A range from minor illnesses to serious and deadly diseases.
They include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.
While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, the bacteria can cause life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.
The bacteria are spread by contact with an infected person or by contact with infected skin lesions.
Bacteria can be passed from person to person by close touch, such as kissing or skin contact.
The risk of spread is greatest when somebody is ill, such as when people have strep throat or an infected wound.