GPs are told to act quickly and dish out antibiotics to kids battling any Strep A symptoms as SEVENTH child dies and grieving parents fume doctors DIDN’T give their ill youngsters crucial drugs

  • A 12-year-old boy attending a school in London was the seventh victim of Strep A
  • Camila Rose Burns, four, is on a ventilator in Liverpool, fighting for her life
  • Thousands of parents are considering pulling their children out of school 
  • Parents urged to contact NHS 111 or their GP if children with symptoms worsen

GPs have been told to be ready to dish out antibiotics to children showing the slightest Strep A symptoms as the bug continues to sweep Britain. 

The warning comes amid a wave of child deaths from a rare but invasive form of the normally mild infection, with seven youngsters now having been killed.

Cases of a dangerous form of the infection, called invasive group A strep (iGAS) are much higher than normal. 

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) bosses have now issued an urgent public health alert to GPs urging them to set a ‘low threshold’ for providing medication at the earliest signs of Strep A. 

Camila Rose, four, has been on a ventilator in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool since last Sunday. She was initially sent home with an inhaler a week earlier

The UK is facing a shortage of a drug used to treat Strep A amid rising infections.

Issues with the supply chain, rising costs and a shortage of raw ingredients has led to a diminished supply of amoxicillin.

Supermarkets and chemists are understood to have run out of the drug, while smaller pharmacists are said to be struggling to source it at all.  

Mother-of-two Jen Pharo, 38, told The Sun that her local Tesco store had run out when she went to purchase some for her young daughter.

She said: ‘They said they couldn’t order any more as  their supplier had none.

‘I did find some at my local chemist, but they were down to their last bottle. It’s alarming we can run out of such a basic medicine.’ 

The bacterial infection can normally be treated easily with antibiotics, especially early in the disease.

But the first symptoms of the disease, such as a fever and sore throat, can be mistaken for a range of common winter viruses for which these drugs are useless.

Medics have been told for years to be cautious about prescribing antibiotics due to fears this was leading to bacteria becoming increasingly immune to the life-saving medications. 

It comes as a bereft father of a four-year-old girl struck down with Strep A today revealed she is still fighting for her life a week later with her tiny body ‘devastated’ by the bacterial infection.

Camila Rose Burns, from Bolton, remains on a ventilator in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool as families across the country mourn the deaths of seven children from the bug that can also cause tonsillitis and scarlet fever.

Camila’s father Dean Burns has not left her side since she was rushed to hospital last Sunday – 24 hours after she was sent away from A&E with an inhaler when doctors put her chest pains down to retching from repeatedly vomiting.

Speaking this morning from Alder Hey, to warn other parents to be vigilant, he said: ‘She is still fighting for her life. It has devastated her body’.

Mr Burns added: ‘We cannot believe it has happened. The pain is unimaginable. She is so beautiful, so precious and just our special little girl. We just want out family back’.    

He spoke out as a seventh child died from the winter bug – as parents were told to be to be extra vigilant if their children fall ill.

Heartbreaking: Camila Rose Burns, pictured with her father Dean, has been critically ill 

Muhammad Ibrahim Ali died after contracting the bacterial infection, Strep A

Hanna Roap, who attended Victoria Primary School in Penarth, Wales, died after contracting strep A earlier this month, with friends and family saying their hearts have ‘broken into a million pieces’

The number serious infections from Strep A in England for this time year (thin green line) is far higher than pre-pandemic seasons. The current number of total cases is also much higher than the peaks of every year except 2017/18 (thin blue line). Source: UKHSA

What is Strep A?

Group A Streptococcus (Group A Strep or Strep A) bacteria can cause many different infections.

The bacteria are commonly found in the throat and on the skin, and some people have no symptoms.

Infections cause by Strep A range from minor illnesses to serious and deadly diseases.

They include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.

While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bacteria cause life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.

What is invasive Group A Streptococcal disease?

Invasive Group A Strep disease is sometimes a life-threatening infection in which the bacteria have invaded parts of the body, such as the blood, deep muscle or lungs.

Two of the most severe, but rare, forms of invasive disease are necrotising fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.

Necrotising fasciitis is also known as the ‘flesh-eating disease’ and can occur if a wound gets infected.

Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome is a rapidly progressing infection causing low blood pressure/shock and damage to organs such as the kidneys, liver and lungs.

This type of toxic shock has a high death rate.

READ MAILONLINE’S FULL Q&A ON STREP A. 

But there are warnings that there is a shortage of amoxicillin – an antibiotic used to treat Strep A – with some pharmacies said to be running out due to supply chain issues.   

Health chiefs issued their ‘urgent public health message’ to GPs after a 12-year-old boy attending a school in London became the latest victim of the bacterial infection.

There have been 2.3 cases of Strep A per 100,000 children aged between one and four so far this year – more than quadruple the average of 0.5 each season before the pandemic. 

Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday said that although most cases of Strep A were mild, parents should be mindful of the symptoms. 

‘It is really important to be vigilant because in the very rare circumstance that it becomes serious then it needs urgent treatment,’ the Tory party chairman told Sky News on Sunday.

‘It is highly infectious, which is why the important message to get across is parents should look out for the symptoms – so fever, headache, skin rash.’

The latest victim is reported to have been a Year 8 pupil at fee-paying Colfe’s School in Lewisham, south-east London. He is the first secondary school pupil to die in the current outbreak. 

There are also fears that worried parents dealing with children becoming ill with a range of winter bugs could overwhelm NHS services.

Professor Neena Modi, an expert in neonatal medicine at Imperial College London, told The Guardian this was the last thing the health service needed this winter. 

‘The last thing we want is for A&E departments to be flooded with a new influx of worried parents,’ she said.

She added that NHS 111, the health services non-urgent medical help resource, wasn’t able to distinguish between children critically ill with Strep A infections or those with mild symptoms, making it essentially ‘not fit for purpose’. 

Dr Helen Salisbury, a GP in Oxford, added that family doctors would inevitably see a rise in concerned parents trying to get appointments. 

‘From a parent’s point of view, it must be really scary. How do you know whether this sore throat is just a common or garden sore throat, or whether this is a prelude to something really serious?’ she said. 

Medics are reportedly terrified of missing a possible Strep A infection that later turns out to be a serious, and potentially fatal, infection.

Dr Stephanie de Giorgio, a GP a in Kent, told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘I won’t lie, I am terrified of missing this.’

‘GPs, and those working in urgent and emergency care, are seeing huge numbers of children with viral upper respiratory infections. No one wants to miss a serious diagnosis.’

Cases of scarlet fever, another potential complication of strep A infections are also on the rise this year (thin grey line) compared to others. Source: UKHSA

Parents of seven-year-old girl who died of strep A say their hearts are ‘broken into a million pieces’

The grieving parents of one of Britain’s strep A victims have told how their hearts have ‘broken into a million pieces’.

Hanna Roap, seven, died within 24 hours of becoming ill with the infection.

Hanna, from Penarth, near Cardiff, was described as a ‘beautiful soul’.

Her mother Salah, 47, and father Abul, 37, say their hearts have been ‘broken into a million pieces’ by the tragedy.

Mr and Mrs Roap, who run a beauty salon, said: ‘Thank you to everyone for your overwhelming support. Thank you for all the flowers, cards and donations. Thank you for all the hugs and tears.

The couple, who have an elder daughter, thanked neighbours and the school for the support since Hanna died.

‘Your kindness reminds us that there is good amongst immense tragedy.

‘We are sorry we have not responded to any messages, texts, emails and calls. Sorry if we are unable to make eye contact if we see you walking by. 

‘Our hearts have been broken into a million pieces. Our only priority is the welfare of Hanna’s eight-year-old sister and best friend. 

‘We have been stunned by the volume of donations we have received. We were not expecting this.’

Professor Hugh Pennington, an expert in bacteria at the University of Aberdeen, said he expects the Strep A outbreak to last several weeks. 

And he added that the wave could not come at worst time for the nation’s GPs as they deal with the normal busy demands of winter infections.   

‘I am glad I’m not a GP right now because they will be facing a lot of parents with children with these symptoms and they are not meant to prescribe antibiotics unless it is necessary,’ he said. 

‘I suspect GPs will be more likely to prescribe antibiotics at the moment. GPs are already under a lot of pressure so this Strep A outbreak couldn’t have come at a worse time.’

UKHSA chief medical advisor Dr Susan Hopkins told Radio 4 today said health authorities were ‘concerned’ about the high level of Strep A infections.

‘The numbers that we are seeing each week are not as high as we’d normally see at the peak of season, but they’re much, much higher than we’ve seen at this time of year for the last five years,’ she said.

‘So we’re concerned and concerned enough to ensure that we want to make the public aware of the signs and symptoms that they should watch out for, and, of course, to alert clinicians to prescribe antibiotics for these conditions.’

Some experts have touted the idea that lockdowns and shutting Britons away from seasonal bugs could be behind the current wave of infections.

Dr Hopkins said the unusual level of Strep A infections, which are normally more likely in Spring could be due to increased mixing and lack of exposure due to pandemic measures. 

‘We’re back to normal social mixing and the patterns of disease that we’re seeing in the past couple of months are out of sync with the normal seasons as people mix back to normal and move around and pass infections on,’ she said. 

‘We also need to recognise that measures we’ve taken for the last couple of years to reduce Covid circulating will also reduce other infections circulating and that means as things get back to normal these traditional infections that we’ve seen for many years are circulating at great levels.’

Group A Strep bacteria usually cause only relatively minor illnesses, such as the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and a sore throat. 

But in rare cases they can trigger the life-threatening illness iGAS.

Four-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, died last month after contracting Strep A and then suffering a cardiac arrest.

His death followed that of Hannah Roap, a seven-year-old girl from Wales.

Hanna, who attended Victoria Primary School in Penarth, Wales, died last week after contracting strep A last week. 

Her parents, Salah, 47, and Abul, 37, thanked neighbours and the 560-pupil school for the support since their girl’s passing.

Mr Roap told MailOnline that he believes Hanna would have survived if a doctor had prescribed antibiotics.

He took her to the family GP after she woke up coughing at midnight last Thursday, November 25. She had been well and in school that day.

The doctor prescribed steroids and sent Hanna home where she died less than 12 hours later.

Mr Roap said: ‘I took her home from the doctors and gave her the medication. She went to sleep at 4pm and never woke up.

‘She stopped breathing at 8pm but we were not immediately aware because she was sleeping.

‘I did CPR, I tried to revive her but it didn’t work. Paramedics arrived and continued the CPR but it was too late.’

Mr Roap said the family was ‘utterly devastated’ and waiting for answers from the hospital where tests had shown the schoolgirl had died of strep A. 

‘For it to happen so quickly, the issue is did she get the correct medication at the time.

‘But she did not get the right medication, if she had been given antibiotics it could have been potentially a different story.’ 

Mr Roap urged parents to be extra vigilant. He said: ‘If your child is poorly, just don’t dismiss it as flu or a normal seasonal illness. It could be something far worse.’

Another of the children who have died was a six-year-old, believed to be a girl, who attended Ashford Church of England Primary School in Surrey. 

Thousands of parents are considering pulling their children out of school as the illness sweeps through classrooms.

UKHSA said it is up to local health protection teams to decide whether parents of children at schools where there have been confirmed infections should be advised to keep them at home.

According to information published by UKHSA, children with scarlet fever – where Strep A causes a sandpaper-type rash – should be kept at home.

Health officials are urging parents to contact NHS 111 or their GP if children with symptoms get worse, start eating less, or show signs of dehydration.

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