Five more children die of Strep A in England bringing total to 21

From September 12 to December 18, there have been 27,486 cases of scarlet fever in England

Five more children in England have died from the invasive Strep A streptococcal infection (iGAS), new figures have shown.

As reported by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), 21 children under the age of 18 have died from the infection since September.

In the last update on December 15, there had been 16 deaths in the same age group.

Across all age groups in England, there have been 94 Strep A deaths this year.

Between September 12 and December 18, there have been 27,486 cases of scarlet fever — which can be caused by Strep A.

From 2017 to 2018, there were 30,768 cases across the whole season. Within that season, however, there were just 3,287 cases of scarlet fever at this point in the year. In the 2017/18 season, which is comparable to this year, there were 355 deaths across all age groups and 27 in children under 18.

Dr Colin Brown, deputy director at the UKHSA, said: “I understand how this large rise in scarlet fever and ‘strep throat’ may be concerning to 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.”

In terms of just Strep A cases, 126 have been recorded in children aged one to four, and 88 in children aged five to nine — the majority of cases are in those over 45.
Due to the unusually high number of infections this year, there is increased demand for drugs such as Penicillin V and Amoxicillin to treat the illness.

The Government has since issued “serious shortage protocols” for three penicillin treatments due to the shortage of supplies.

Health minister Will Quince said last week: “The increased demand for the antibiotics prescribed to treat Strep A has meant some pharmacists have been unable to supply the medicine shown on the prescription.

“These Serious Shortage Protocols will allow pharmacists to supply an alternative form of penicillin, which will make things easier for them, patients, and GPs.”

The serious protocols issued apply to the following medicines:

— Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5ml oral solution sugar free

— Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5ml oral solution

— Phenoxymethylpenicillin 125mg/5ml oral solution sugar free

Some pharmacists have also complained of a lack of stock while also being charged higher prices for drugs by wholesalers.