Urgent plea for schools to shut early for Christmas over Strep A fears

What is Strep A infection?

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Parents have called for schools to close early after 15 children have died from Strep A in the UK this winter. Concerns have been raised across the UK after a shortage in penicillin has left some parents questioning whether or not to send their children to school. Scarlet fever is just one of many types of infections caused by Strep A, a type of bacteria that around 20% of people carry in their throats naturally.

But when the infections gets out of control, it can spread among people, with children being susceptible to catching the infection. 

In rare cases it can cause something called iGAS, a more dangerous type of infection that becomes more invasive.

Although Strep A levels have risen, having doubled in recent weeks, Public Health Wales said earlier levels were now similar to 2016, reports North Wales Live.

Between January and October this year, there have been 1,512 recorded cases of scarlet fever, compared to 948 in the same period last year. Symptoms include a high temperature, swollen glands, aching body, sore throat, scabs and sores and a rash.

Joanne Jones from Llandudno thinks it is ironic that schools are not being closed now when they shut for Covid after three of her children caught the infection.

Joanne’s three children, Jasmine, eight, Louie, six, and Ophelia, three, have all had the bug in the last week. Joanne believes councils should consider shutting the schools.

She said: “It just makes me laugh because with Covid, it was mainly affecting old people, and everyone had to lock themselves in, use hand sanitiser, put a mask on, only go out for essential things. There were big announcements on the news petrifying people, and it was apparently only affecting old people. All kids were apparently healthy (largely unaffected), and this has come around where it is affecting kids, and the kids are so poorly. It is not just like a common cold. It’s not like Covid. My children have had Covid.

“They are really ill. They are lethargic. They can’t lift themselves up. They are coughing. They are sick, no energy, sore throats, swollen glands, everything you can think of, sore chests, and there are children dying with this, and they are just letting children go back to school, go back to normal. ‘Go and do your Christmas shopping’. And this is children we are talking about. When it was old people, everyone had to lock themselves in with Covid.”

But councils across North Wales said there were no plans to shut schools. A spokeswoman for Conwy County Council said: “As this subject has been in the national media over recent weeks, we have shared Public Health Wales guidance about streptococcal disease with all our schools.”

Meanwhile, one parent discussed the difficulty in getting hold of the vital antibiotic for her daughter who fell unwell with the infection. Speaking to Sky News, Kim Gardener said: “The prescription originally wasn’t sent down to our normal pharmacy because it was out of stock. I got told by the GP and the pharmacy we might struggle, so I phoned around pharmacies in the area and luckily the third one I called had it.

“All of the pharmacists I spoke to said there was a shortage in Crewe – it’s just frustrating, with this going on there needs to be more available.”

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With cases rising in the North West of England, it’s an issue that is likely to continue. Parents have been urged to remain vigilant as the death toll from group A strep this winter has now reached 15 children, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has revealed.

Of these, 13 deaths occurred in England, while the other two were recorded in Ireland and Wales. The UKHSA has previously said that there is no evidence to suggest that a new strain of Group A Strep is circulating — with this year’s rise in cases being attributed to a combination of resumed social mixing and high amounts of circulating bacteria.

Group A Streptococcus is a group of infectious bacteria that can cause various inflammatory conditions including strep throat, scarlet fever, and various skin infections. It can be spread by close contact with an infected person, by coughs and sneezes, and via wounds.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), incidence of scarlet fever is much higher than is typically seen at this time of year. In fact, three weeks ago, officials logged 851 cases of the infection, compared to 186, the average seen over previous years.

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