December 7, 2022, 08:26 | Updated: December 7, 2022, 08:29
The Secretary of Health took steps to reassure the public today after nine children died in the Strep A outbreak.
Steve Barclay told LBC there was no shortage of antibiotics to fight the virus.
He told Nick Ferrari at breakfast on LBC: “Many parents are concerned. Manufacturers have a duty to share with us if they have supply concerns. They have made it clear that this is not the case.”
“When there is a surge in demand, you sometimes feel pressured on certain GPs. We have well-established processes around moving supplies from stock.”
His comments come after some pharmacists warned of penicillin shortages.
Officials are looking at plans to administer antibiotics to entire schools to tackle outbreaks of strep A.
Nine children have died after contracting the infection since September.
They include the tragic Stella-Lily McCorkindale, who was identified yesterday as the ninth child to die from the infection in the current outbreak.
Her devastated father took to social media to send messages of thanks to people who sent their support.
He wrote: “I hope you all find the time to read this. I don’t have the strength to make a video.
“First of all, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. If the prayers, thoughts, feelings, and love had worked, she would have walked out of the hospital holding her dad’s hand.”
“So, from me and Stella-Lily, thank you all for all your kind prayers, thoughts and feelings that we all feel, words cannot express our gratitude.
Sadly, the governors, staff, and students of Black Mountain Elementary School have been informed of the untimely passing of…
“When my daughter was born, there was no choice but to bring her home and raise her among the best people in the world on Shankill Road.
“We loved every minute together walking this road on our scooter or bike rides, shopping in Iceland and living alongside neighbors who once walked this land.
“From every business we were in to every bad drinking place we passed every time I looked up if someone didn’t tell me how cute we were then we used to have a big smile for each other.
“You have brought my family here. I ask you one thing until next Wednesday for his funeral. We still need you.”
He added: “To everyone from Belfast to Northern Ireland to his family in Canada, thank you all for every thought.
“Stella-Lily felt them all.”
A fundraising page has started raising money to support the family and has currently raised over £5,000.
Black Mountain Primary School in Derry posted a message announcing her death on Facebook.
The school said: “Sadly, the governors, staff and students of Black Mountain Elementary School have been informed of the untimely passing of one of our P2 students, Stella-Lily McCorkindale.
“This is a tragic loss for the Black Mountain Elementary School family and our school community, and the thoughts of the entire school are with Stella-Lily’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time.
“Stella-Lily was a very bright and talented child and very popular with staff and children and will be sorely missed by everyone at school.
“To help support our students and staff at this sad time, additional trained staff from the Education Authority’s Critical Incident Response Team have been recruited and will provide support to the school.
“We recognize that this news may cause concern among our school community, and we want to reassure parents that we continue to work closely with the Public Health Agency at this time.”
His death brings the total number of victims to nine. It comes after the death of a pupil at Morelands Primary School in Hampshire.
The education minister confirmed today that preventative antibiotics could be given to children in schools affected by strep A infections.
As with the other deaths, the boy died after contracting an invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) infection, a severe form of the disease that is usually harmless.
The UK Health Security Agency said it was important that “accurate information is shared with the school community” in Hampshire.
Simon Bryant, director of public health for Hampshire County Council, said he was “working closely with the school to raise awareness among parents and carers about the signs and symptoms of group A strep infections.”
He added: “I would like to emphasize that getting (this) disease from another person is very rare.
“Most people who come into contact with group A strep infections remain well and asymptomatic, and therefore there is no reason for children to stay home if they are well.”
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A 12-year-old boy attending a London school became the seventh to die after contracting the virus.
The boy, who was not identified, was an eighth-year student at Colfe private school in Lewisham, south-east London, and is the first secondary school pupil to lose his life in the current outbreak.
Doctors have been told to have a “low threshold” for prescribing antibiotics for possible strep A infections in children.
Streptococcus A infections are caused by group A streptococcus bacteria and usually result in mild illness, especially when antibiotics are prescribed early in the illness.
However, health officials are concerned about an unusual increase in serious strep A infections, called iGAS infections, when they penetrate deeper into the body and can lead to life-threatening problems, including sepsis.
So far this year, there have been 2.3 iGAS cases per 100,000 children ages one to four; this is more than four times the 0.5 average seen each season before the pandemic.
Updated guidance on outbreaks of scarlet fever, which is caused by Strep A, published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in October, sets out how antibiotics can be used as prophylaxis, but a decision is made with local outbreak control teams (OCTs) on a “case by case” basis.