parents' worry | 

HSE sends letter to parents warning about key symptoms of Strep A to look out for

A runny or blocked nose, mild fever, a cough and tiredness are all signs of viral infections.

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

The HSE has sent a letter to parents urging them to keep a look out for symptoms of Strep A following a number of serious cases in children.

The warning comes as a five-year-old from Belfast and a four-year-old understood to be from Dublin have died this week after contracting the infection.

Although Ireland has seen more serious cases of Strep A recently, the HSE has said there has been no increase in the number of cases.

In a memo to principals this morning, the HSE has shared the symptoms of Strep A to look out for.

A runny or blocked nose, mild fever, a cough and tiredness are all signs of viral infections.

Many children may also have a generalised rash, the heath service warns.

"There has been a large increase in general viral infections among children and young people this winter,” the HSE said in the letter.

"There have also been recent concerns about a rare bacterial infection.

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"This infection is iGAS (an invasive Group A Streptococcal infection). It is also known as Group A Strep.”

Strep A can lead to tonsillitis, scarlet fever or skin infections.

The heath service has urged parents to remember that most children can be cared for at home and if they are unwell, to stay at home.

"Children with symptoms are more likely to spread infections,” the letter said, reminding parents to keep children with a fever, a cough or sore throat at home until the symptoms go away.

A number of prevention measures were shared by the HSE, including covering coughs and sneezes as well has keeping hands clean and ensuring children are vaccinated.

There is, however, no vaccination against many viral illnesses or Strep A.

"Making sure your child is up to date on all recommended vaccination will help stop your child getting an infection and make them less likely to be unwell if they do get an infection,” the HSE said.

Speaking to after the death of a four-year-old following a Strep A infection this week, Dr Éamonn O’Moore, the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) Director said:

"The news of a child death with Strep A will be worrying for parents, but it’s important to know that most children who get ill from a Group A Strep infections will have a mild illness which can be treated with antibiotics.

“Group A Streptococci are a common bacteria that are often and usually relatively mild and self-limiting. They can cause infections like tonsillitis and pharyngitis and scarlet fever.

"The HPSC is closely monitoring Strep A and Scarlet Fever and as yet there is no evidence that a new strain is in circulation.

"There is likely a combination of factors as to why there has been a slight increase in infection this season, including increased social mixing following the pandemic compared to previous years as well as increases in other respiratory viruses.”

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