INFECTION FEARS | 

Strep A warning to parents as HSE investigates link to death of Dublin child

The HSE has confirmed it is investigating the death of a four-year-old child which may be linked to invasive strep A infection.

2JK32K4 Sick child on a receiving a saline solution in hospital© Alamy Stock Photo

People are being advised to check children's temperatures for signs of potential strep A infection. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA© PA

Eilish O'ReganIndependent.ie

​Parents, doctors and schools are being urged to watch out signs of a bug in children which can cause serious and life-threatening illness.

The HSE has confirmed it is investigating the death of a four-year-old child which may be linked to invasive strep A infection.

Two adults over 55 have died this year in the country after the bacterial infection invaded their blood, deep muscle or lungs.

The death of the child, who is from the HSE’s area covering the north east and north Dublin, follows an increase in cases where the bug developed into the potentially lethal iGAS or invasive strep A since October, where four children aged under 10 became infected.

The child’s close contacts have been given preventive antibiotics and it will be a matter for public health teams to assess on a case-by-case basis how far this should extend in similar instances.

It comes in the wake of the death of a five-year-old Stella-Lily McCorkindale in Belfast on Monday from the severe form of the bacterial infection, the ninth such child fatality in the UK.

The girl’s school, Black Mountain Primary School, released a statement which said: “Stella-Lily was a very bright and talented little girl, and very popular with both staff and children, and will be greatly missed by everyone at school.”

Most cases of strep A, which is medically known as Group A streptococcus, are relatively harmless and can cause strep throat, tonsillitis and impetigo – a skin infection.

Stella-Lily McCorkindale

However, in rare cases, if the infection gets into the blood, deep muscle or lungs, it can prove fatal unless caught and treated with antibiotics.

GPs are expected to err on the side of caution and after assessing a child for a sore throat sign a prescription for antibiotics.

A common presentation of the infection in children can be scarlet fever which causes fever, a raised rash which can feel rough to the touch like sandpaper, a sore throat, and a swollen tongue.

“To date in 2022, there have been 55 iGAS cases in Ireland, 14 were in children aged under 10-years-old compared to 22 cases in children aged under 10 for the same period in 2019,” the HSE said.

The HSE pointed out the bacteria is spread by close contact with an infected person and can be passed on through coughs and sneezes or from a wound. Some people can have the bacteria present in their body without feeling unwell or showing any symptoms of infections and while they can pass it on, the risk of spread is much greater when a person is unwell.”

Schools are being told to ensure they are following Covid-style handwashing and respiratory hygiene rules while children with a sore throat should stay at home.

According to the HSE, “when treated with antibiotics, an unwell person with a mild illness like tonsilitis, stops being contagious around 24 hours after starting their medication.”

People are being advised to check children's temperatures for signs of potential strep A infection. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA© PA

The most serious invasive infections can happen when a person has sores or open wounds that allow the bacteria to get into the tissue, has damage in their respiratory tract after a viral illness, or has a health condition that reduces their immunity to infection.

It can cause necrotising fasciitis, necrotising pneumonia and toxic shock syndrome.

Parents should contact their GP if their child is not feeding or eating much less than normal, has a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration.

They are advised to seek help if the baby is under three months and has a temperature of 38C, or is older and has a temperature of 39C or higher.

They are asked to check if the baby feels hotter than usual to the touch of their back or chest, if they feel sweaty, or if they are very tired or irritable.

People are advised to call 999 or go to an emergency department if a child is having difficulty breathing and their tummy is sucking under their ribs.


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