A fourth child has died after contracting the Strep A bacterial infection – the third in a week.
Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, 4, from Buckinghamshire, died of the bug on 14 November, it has been revealed. He died the day after Hanna Roap, aged seven, from Penarth, Wales, who died within 24 hours of falling ill.
Their deaths come after a six-year-old girl died following an outbreak of the infection at Ashford Church of England Primary School in Surrey on 22 November.
And the UK Health Security Agency has also confirmed the death of a pupil at St John’s School in Ealing, west London.
Strep A, a common infection that mostly affects young children and can cause scarlet fever, is treated with antibiotics.
Muhammad died at his home in High Wycombe after suffering a cardiac arrest, according to the Bucks Free Press newspaper.
His family, who said they were heartbroken, praised him as “sweet and caring”.
His mother, Shabana Kousar, said: “The loss is great and nothing will replace that.
“He was very helpful around the house and quite adventurous, he loved exploring and enjoyed the forest school. His best day was a Monday and said how Monday was the best day of the week.
“He also had a very close bond with his dad. He was his best friend and went everywhere with him. He just wanted to be with him.”
His aunt, Azra Ali said: “Whatever his body was trying to fight his heart couldn’t handle it.
“It’s shocking and I feel really upset. He was a lovely little boy, but we don’t see him often, we live in Leeds. It’s heartbreaking as he was the sweetest little boy.
“When his mum was working he’d help her, he was a man in a little boy’s body. He had quite a few friends at school, the teachers were distraught. They were telling us stories we didn’t know.”
Staff from the Oakridge School and Nursery in High Wycombe joined Muhammad’s family at his funeral.
An online fundraising drive aiming to raise £500 for a memorial at the school has more than beaten its target, raising over £4,300 so far, the excess going towards a charity of his parents’ choice.
“This will enable us to remember the wonderful, kind, smiley, energetic boy that Ibrahim was,” the fundraising page says.
Hanna’s parents also paid tribute to their daughter, a popular pupil at Victoria Primary School in Penarth, near Cardiff.
Her mother, Salah, and father, Abul, both 37, said: “As most of you will be wondering what the cause of death was and to prevent misinformation, Hanna passed away as a result of contracting Strep A.
“It all happened suddenly. 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,” her parents added, according to Wales Online.
An online fundraising page, in aid of a charity to be chosen by her parents, reads: “She was the most beautiful, bubbly, funny, lovable person. Family are heartbroken.”
Mr Roap told MailOnline he believed Hanna would have survived had a doctor prescribed antibiotics.
He took her to the family GP after she woke up coughing. 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.”
A joint statement by her school and Vale of Glamorgan Council said support was being provided to staff and pupils by educational psychologists, and information from Public Health Wales had been circulated to parents where appropriate.
“It is unlikely that other pupils will be affected by the illness and severe symptoms are extremely rare. Sensible precautions such as regular hand-washing and not attending school when ill can reduce the risk of infection,” it added.
Public Health Wales’ communicable disease control consultant Dr Ardiana Gjini said experts were working with the school to raise awareness of the infection, suggesting people familiarise themselves with the symptoms of fever, sore throat, severe muscle aches and redness at the site of a wound.
“We offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and all those affected,” the doctor said.
Yimmy Chow, health protection consultant at the UK Health Security Agency in London, said: “We are extremely saddened to hear about the death of a child at St John’s Primary School, and our thoughts are with their family, friends and the school community.
“Working with Ealing Council public health team, we have provided precautionary advice to the school community to help prevent further cases and we continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Ruth Hutchinson, director of public health at Surrey County Council, said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of a pupil at Ashford Church of England School and we offer our sincere condolences to their family, friends and the whole school community, who are in our thoughts.”
According to the NHS, the first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature, a sore throat and swollen neck glands.
A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later which starts on the chest and stomach, and then spreads.
Most children recover well but for up to one in 10 of those with invasive group A Strep infection, it is serious and may be fatal, health experts say. Seriously ill children may be treated with intravenous antibiotics.
“Sadly each year we see a number of fatalities among all age groups including children under 10. This year we’re seeing a lot of scarlet fever, and that means there is a lot of group A Streptococcus in communities,” said Colin Brown, an expert with the UKHSA.
“Because of that a proportion – and we don’t think that proportion has changed – progress to invasive group A Streptococcus and a small number of those unfortunately die each year.”