By Emily Welch, 16/12/22
Invasive Strep A infections have been on the rise across the United Kingdom over the past few months. So, what is invasive Strep A and what are the signs to look out for?
Emily Welch, Trainee Solicitor in our Clinical Negligence department, discusses the increase in invasive Strep A infections over the past few months.
Streptococcus A (or Strep A) is a bacterium which is commonly found in the throat and on skin. Strep A can cause a range of infections with some mild and others more serious.
Common symptoms of Strep A include:
- flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, swollen glands or an aching body
- sore throat (strep throat or tonsillitis)
- a rash that feels rough, like sandpaper (scarlet fever)
- scabs and sores (impetigo)
- pain and swelling (cellulitis)
- severe muscle aches
- nausea and vomiting
Invasive Strep A
Most Strep A infections are not serious and can be treated with a course of antibiotics. However, sometimes more serious infections can develop, this is known as invasive Strep A. Invasive Strep A occurs when bacteria get into parts of the body where it is not usually found such as the blood, muscles or lungs. In rare cases, invasive Strep A can be fatal.
Cases of invasive Strep A are higher than usual this year. Since September, the UK Health Security Agency advised that there been 659 reports of invasive Strep A, which is higher than at the same time over the last five years. Sadly, we have now seen 15 deaths of children under the age of 15 with invasive Strep A.
Despite the out of season increase we are seeing in Strep A infections; the risk of a more serious infection still remains very low. But as a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgement and seek medical advice.
The current NHS guidance is to seek help by either contacting NHS 111 or your GP as soon as any symptoms are noted. Earlier treatment with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications that can lead to a more serious infection.
Vulnerability to Strep A
Few people who come into contact with Strep A will develop invasive Strep A. Most will have a mild throat or skin infection, and some may have no symptoms at all. Although healthy people can contract invasive Strep A, people with chronic illnesses like cancer or diabetes, those on kidney dialysis, and those who use medications such as steroids are at higher risk of contracting infection. In addition, breaks in the skin like cuts, wounds, or chickenpox may provide an opportunity for the Strep A bacteria to enter the body.
Strep A and Sepsis
Sepsis can result from an infection anywhere in the body. Consequently, in rare cases, invasive Strep A can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s extreme reaction to infection and can cause the immune system to go into overdrive. Although treatable in many cases, The UK Sepsis Trust says at least 48,000 deaths a year in the UK are sepsis related.
At Hugh James we work closely with The UK Sepsis Trust whose aim is to help raise awareness of sepsis. The work of The UK Sepsis Trust has resulted in a greater understanding of sepsis and critical illness recovery. The Trust also signposts individuals to other appropriate services that can offer advice and support including information on how to raise concerns about medical treatment where sepsis was a factor. Hugh James is proud to partner with The UK Sepsis Trust to provide legal advice to individuals and their families following a diagnosis of sepsis.
It is our sincere hope that raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of invasive Strep A will encourage individuals to take appropriate precautions and ensure they seek prompt medical input if they have any concerns.