Twelve people in Essex have died following an outbreak of a rare strain of streptococcus, it has emerged.
In total, 32 people have been diagnosed with the invasive Group A streptococcal (iGAS) infection, with cases identified in Braintree, Chelmsford and Maldon.
Most of the people affected by the outbreak are “elderly and had been receiving care for chronic wounds in the community”, according to a report from the Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
However, it was unable to say when the cases had occurred.
Group A streptococcus is a kind of bacteria that can be found in the throat and on the skin and is spread between people through sneezing, kissing and skin contact.
While it will not cause any illness for many people, most infections that do occur cause relatively mild illnesses such as a sore throat, scarlet fever or a skin infection, the CCG said.
However, although there is an extremely low risk of serious infection to healthy people, on rare occasions the bacteria can enter the body, causing invasive Group A streptococcal disease (iGAS).
In these cases, the bacteria can cause severe and life-threatening conditions.
An investigation into the outbreak has been launched, with additional infection control measures now in place.
Rachel Hearn, director of nursing and quality at the Mid Essex CCG said: “Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have died.
“The risk of contracting iGAS is very low for the vast majority of people and treatment with antibiotics is very effective if started early.
“We will continue to work with our partners in Public Health England to investigate how this outbreak occurred and take every possible step to ensure our local community is protected.”
HuffPost UK has contacted Public Health England for more information about the outbreak.
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