Dear Parents/ Carers
As you are aware, sadly a small number of children have died of invasive Group A Streptococcus (iGAS) recently. I am writing to you with guidance from the Director of Public Health England to provide information on this. Please see below and also the attached frequently asked questions.
Group A streptococci is a type of bacterium that can cause scarlet fever and although this is rare – it can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive Group A strep (iGAS). This can cause other respiratory and skin infections too such as strep throat and impetigo.
Scarlet fever itself is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious. Further information on Scarlet fever from the NHS is available here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/scarlet-fever
Things you can do yourself. You can relieve symptoms of scarlet fever by: drinking cool fluids; eating soft foods if you have a sore throat; taking painkillers like paracetamol to bring down a high temperature (do not give aspirin to children under 16)
. If a child has scarlet fever, they need to be kept at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others.
Please use the online NHS symptom checker.
Whilst still uncommon there has been an increase in Invasive Group A strep cases this year, particularly in children under 10 years old. There are also reports of an increase in lower respiratory tract Group A strep infections in children over the past few weeks, which have caused severe illness.
Currently, there is no evidence that a new strain is circulating. The increase is most likely related to high amounts of circulating bacteria and social mixing. Additionally, there are lots of viruses circulating that cause sore throats, colds, and coughs, most of which should resolve without medical intervention.
However, children can occasionally develop a bacterial infection on top of a virus which can make them more unwell.
The UK Health Security agency which provides advice to health professionals around infectious diseases issued the following advice to parents:
“As a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgement. Contact NHS 111 or your GP 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 3 months and has a temperature of 38°C, or is older than 3 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
Call 999 or go to A&E if:
• your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs
• there are pauses when your child breathes
• your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue
• your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake”
The most important advice is to talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deterioration after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.
Follow the NHS advice for getting the right support at the right time www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/your-health/local-services. In an emergency always call 999.
Good hand and respiratory hygiene can stop the spread of many bugs.
Children should know how to wash their hands properly with soap for 20 seconds and should be encouraged to always use a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes.
Children should also know to stay away from people who are obviously unwell with coughs and colds, because it reduces the risk of picking up or spreading infections.
Common respiratory bacteria and viruses circulate much more in the winter months. Being vigilant and seeking care at the right time will help health care professionals to manage the illness promptly.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask the school.