Girl, 5, dies of Strep A infection at school as parents urged to look out for symptoms

A five-year-old pupil from a west London primary school has died after contracting Strep A.

Parents of children at St Saviours C of E Primary School have been warned to look out for symptoms following a spike in deaths caused by the bacterial infection last year.

The bacteria can cause many different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases. They include the skin infection impetigo and strep throat, as well as scarlet fever.

Strep A can also, in rare cases, cause the life-threatening invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS). Most people who come into contact with Strep A bacteria, however, remain well and symptom-free.

Sara Atkin, health protection consultant at UKHSA London, said: “Our thoughts are with the family, friends and school community following the sad death of a child who attends St Saviour’s CofE Primary School in Maida Vale.

“We have provided precautionary advice to the school to help prevent further cases and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

“Strep A infections usually result in mild illness, and information has been shared with parents and staff about the signs and symptoms. These include a sore throat, fever and minor skin infections, and can be treated with a full course of antibiotics from the GP.

“In rare instances, it can cause a serious invasive infection, known as iGAS. Anyone with high fever, severe muscle aches, extreme pain or swelling of the skin, and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea should call NHS 111 and seek medical help immediately.”

A high temperature (38C and above) can be a sign of Strep A infection (PA)
A high temperature (38C and above) can be a sign of Strep A infection (PA)

So far this season from 12 September 2022 to 10 March 2023, there have been 2,415 iGAS cases across all age groups, compared to 2,898 across the whole of the last comparably high season in 2017 to 2018, according to UKHSA.

There have been 575 iGAS cases in children aged 18 years and under compared to 205 cases in the 2017 to 2018 season.

Strep A bacteria can cause the life-threatening Group A Streptococcal disease (AP)
Strep A bacteria can cause the life-threatening Group A Streptococcal disease (AP)

There have also been 319 deaths across all age groups in England this season, including 40 children aged under 18 years in England.

Between September 2017 to September 2018, there were 354 deaths in total across the season, including 27 deaths among children aged under 18 years.

The health agency said that high levels of activity at such an early point in the season “remains a concern” as further increases are possible in the coming weeks as the season moves towards the peak time of year for infections.

There is currently no vaccine to guard against Strep A or scarlet fever, although in the former case, several have reportedly been through early-stage clinical trials and research into the matter has been ongoing since the 1940s.

Parents should call 999 or go to A&E if their child is having difficulty breathing, their tongue or lips are blue or they will not wake up or stay awake.