Parents are on high alert amid reports a ninth child has died from a strep A infection in the UK.
The UK Health Security Agency reported on Friday that there has been a concerning rise in the number of kids contracting strep A — a bacteria commonly found in the throat and on the skin that can cause numerous infections including pneumonia and scarlet fever — with five confirmed deaths in children under the age of 10.
British media states that figure has now grown to nine, with Stella-Lily McCorkindale, a "bright and talented" five-year-old girl from Northern Ireland, identified as the latest victim.
"We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual," Dr Colin Brown, Deputy Director of the UKHSA, said.
"The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics. In very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep (iGAS).
"This is still uncommon; however, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious. Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection."
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UKHSA, said the agency is "concerned" by a premature spike in cases amid fears immunity could be lower following Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
"The numbers that we're seeing each week are not as high as we would normally see at the peak of the season, but they are much, much higher than we have seen at this time of year for the last five years,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
"So we're concerned, and concerned enough to ensure that we wanted to make the public aware of the signs and symptoms that they should watch out for, and of course, to alert clinicians to prescribe antibiotics for these conditions."
'Mummy, I feel like I'm dying'
The devastated father of Stella-Lily McCorkindale told the Mirror he had taken his daughter to the hospital three times in just as many days after she fell ill on November 26. By November 30, her condition had deteriorated rapidly.
"By 5pm on Wednesday Stella had said 'mummy, I feel like I'm dying'. and so we took her back," Robert McCorkindale, from Belfast, told the publication. "I shouted at them that we were not going anywhere until we saw a doctor.
"In 15 minutes, this doctor ordered tests and found she had a chest infection and they said 'we think this is toxic shock now'. They weren't 100% sure it was Strep A, and they feared it was sepsis too because the blood was infected. The blood culture came back for a Strep A a few hours later."
Despite doctor’s best efforts, the five-year-old tragically died on Tuesday.
"All the doctors on the ICU ward did everything for her, they bent over backwards and treated her like a princess," he said. "By 3am Thursday, her whole body shut down and she died for five minutes and they brought her back."
The family is now raising money to give their "kind and caring" little girl a proper send off.
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