Strep A outbreak: NHS issue WARNING after 13 people die – latest update & advice

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An important update has been released by the NHS following the outbreak of a contagious bacterial infection known as invasive Group A streptococcal (iGAS). The deadly infection, which is believed to have started in Braintree, Essex, killed 13 people. The most up to date figures indicate that 35 people have been affected by the outbreak in total in Essex, with 32 confirmed cases and three probable. A statement from the NHS said: “As of July 30, there have been no further cases of iGAS and the total number of people affected by the iGAS outbreak is unchanged at 35.

“However following tests by Public Health England, the mid Essex patient whose results were pending last week has now been confirmed as a part of this outbreak.

“This means that of the 35 people affected by iGAS, 32 are confirmed as part of this outbreak and three are probable cases. Thirteen people have sadly died.”

Commenting on the incident at the start of the outbreak, Dr Jorg Hoffman, deputy director of health protection for PHE East of England, described it as “a very serious situation”.

He said: “This is still an ongoing outbreak. Unfortunately we have so far not been able to fully contain the situation.

“Obviously we are hoping that the efforts of our colleagues in the NHS and provider organisations are now bearing some fruit and we will be able to contain the situation and prevent further cases from happening.

“I cannot deny that there is still an ongoing risk until we can declare that this outbreak is over.”

What is it?

Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is a bacterium which can colonise the throat, skin and anogenital tract. According to Gov.uk, it causes a diverse range of skin, soft tissue and respiratory tract infections.

These include:

  • Tonsillitis
  • Pharyngitis

  • Scarlet fever

  • Impetigo

  • Erysipelas

  • Cellulitis

  • Pneumoni

In rare cases, patients may go on to develop post-streptococcal complications, such as:

  • Rheumatic fever

  • Glomerulonephritis

GOV.uk advised: “GAS can occasionally cause infections that are extremely severe. Invasive GAS (iGAS) is an infection where the bacteria is isolated from a normally sterile body site, such as the blood.”

How it is spread?

According to the government body, it is spread by close contact between individuals, through:

  • Respiratory droplets
  • Direct skin contact

It can also be transmitted environmentally, through:

  • Contact with contaminated objects, such as towels or bedding

  • Ingestion of food inoculated by a carrier

Invasive GAS (iGAS) infection and scarlet fever are both notifiable diseases: health professionals must inform local health protection teams of suspected cases.

According to Public Health UK guidelines, risk factors of the disease include:

  • People over 75

  • Women who are 37 weeks pregnant

  • Women within 28 days of giving birth

  • New born children up to 28 days old

  • Chicken pox with onset 10-14 days prior to the case onset

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