THERE have been four confirmed cases of Scarlet Fever in Warrington in the past week according to new figures.
The virus is linked to Strep A – the infection behind 15 child deaths in the UK in recent weeks.
According to figures released by the Government up to the end of Sunday, four cases were recorded in the borough in the past week.
Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria called group A streptococci.
These bacteria also cause other respiratory and skin infections such as strep throat and impetigo.
In very rare occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive Group A strep (iGAS).
While still uncommon, there has been an increase in invasive Group A strep cases this year, particularly in children under 10.
What are the signs to look out for?
Warrington’s public health team is urging people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Group A Strep to help prevent the spread of the infection.
Group A Strep is a bacteria found in the throat and on the skin, and it can be passed from one person to another through sneezing, kissing, and skin contact. In most people it does not cause any symptoms, but it can make others seriously ill.
Breaks in the skin, such as surgical wounds, or cuts can also provide an opportunity for the bacteria to enter the body and cause infection.
Most Group A Strep infections are relatively mild illnesses such as sore throat, scarlet fever, impetigo (a crusted skin infection usually around the mouth that often affects children), or cellulitis (an infection causing redness of the skin). These infections may require antibiotics.
In rare circumstances, Group A Strep can cause severe diseases called invasive Group A Strep disease.
Anyone can become infected with Group A Strep.
However, people with long-term illnesses like cancer, diabetes and kidney disease, and those who use medications such as steroids, are at higher risk for invasive disease. Invasive Group A Strep infection occurs when the bacteria gets past the body’s natural defences and enters parts of the body where it is not usually found, such as the blood, muscles, or lungs.
Symptoms of invasive disease can include fever (a high temperature above 38°C), severe muscle aches, localised muscle tenderness, and redness at the site of a wound.
It is important that parents, and people at higher risk, are on the lookout for symptoms and seek medical help as quickly as possible, so that the patient can be treated and the infection stopped from becoming more serious.
As a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgement.
Contact NHS 111 or call your GP practice 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 three months and has a temperature of 38°C, or is older than three months and has a temperature of 39°C 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
Thara Raj, Warrington’s director of public health, said: “For the last two winters, we have all been on high alert for Covid-19 and have changed our behaviours to help make sure we stay safe. We have seen a reduction in the number of cases of other winter respiratory illnesses, such as flu, largely due to our improved health habits.
“We know how to help combat group A Strep infections - there are four simple things we can do this winter to help prevent the spread of bugs and diseases. Let’s keep washing our hands, sanitising surfaces, covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze, and keeping a distance when we feel unwell. It sounds so simple, but washing your hands with soap and warm water is one of the easiest ways to prevent yourself and others from catching illnesses like flu, norovirus, the common cold and Group A Strep.
“We need everyone to remember that it is still important to take these small steps to reduce the spread of infection. It's the simple things that really do mean a lot!”
For more information about symptoms of Group A Strep and associated illnesses, visit:
• Scarlet fever: Scarlet fever – NHS (nhs.uk)
• Impetigo: Impetigo – NHS (nhs.uk)
• Cellulitis: Cellulitis – NHS (nhs.uk)
• The UKHSA website: Group A Strep – what you need to know (blog.gov.uk)
Further information about the Simple Things campaign can be found at simplethings-nhs.com.