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NEWS: UK Health Security Agency issues warning over increased Strep A infections

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has reported a significant increase in Strep A infections. Strep A (Group A streptococcus) is a bacteria that can cause a range of illnesses which are usually mild and can be treated with antibiotics. In children, Strep A infection can cause scarlet fever.

Symptoms of Strep A and scarlet fever may include: sore throat and difficulty swallowing, headache, fever, a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel (note that the rash may be harder to detect visually on darker skin) and ‘strawberry-like’ bumps on the tongue.

In rarer occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and can cause a more serious illness called invasive Group A strep (iGAS). The UKHSA has reported an increase in the number of iGAS cases.  

Advice for early years and childcare practitioners

We’re reminding PACEY members to look at the Government guidance on management of specific diseases, including scarlet fever, and to familiarise yourself with its symptoms. This guidance states that the recommended exclusion time for scarlet fever is 24 hours after the individual started taking antibiotics (or two weeks, if antibiotics are not taken). If you have an 'outbreak' of two cases within 10 days in your setting you should report it to your local health protection team (HPT) for further guidance.

Your illness and infection policy should outline steps that you take to reduce the risk of illness spreading in your setting, such as maintaining good hand and respiratory hygiene and keeping ill individuals away from others to prevent the spread.

The Department for Education in England has recently published a helpful blog with information for parents and education settings around Strep A and scarlet fever and the symptoms to be aware of. You may wish to share this link with the parents and carers of children in your setting.

PACEY members in Wales can refer to our PACEY Cymru news story

Advice for parents and carers

Parents and carers are advised to seek medical help by calling NHS 111 or their GP if they suspect their child has scarlet fever. They should use their judgement and seek further medical assistance if they notice the child deteriorating. The Government advice is as follows:

Contact NHS 111 if or your GP if:

  • your child is getting worse
  • your child is feeding or eating much less than normal
  • your child has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration
  • your baby is under 3 months and has a temperature of 38C, or is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 39C or higher
  • your baby feels hotter than usual when you touch their back or chest, or feels sweaty
  • your child is very tired or irritable

Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs
  • there are pauses when your child breathes
  • your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue
  • your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake.

Further resources