LOCAL chemists are running out of antibiotics to treat strep A amid outbreak that has killed 15 children, health chief says.
David Webb, the country’s chief pharmaceutical officer, said local pharmacies are currently facing “a temporary supply interruption” to treat the disease.
It comes after experts warned that there is a sharp increase in strep A infections, with higher than usual numbers being reported.
A UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) The report indicates that there have been 15 deaths between September 12 and November 28, six more than previously announced.
Seven cases had previously been identified in England.
The new report adds 15 and does not specify where each death has occurred and where cases have been detected.
Speaking of the antibiotic shortage, Webb said: “Local pharmacy teams may be experiencing a temporary supply disruption of some relevant antibiotics due to increased demand.”
But, he said “sufficient stock exists for the NHS” nationally.
His warning comes after pharmacies also raised concerns about antibiotic stock levels.
Group A strep, Streptococcus pyogenes, is a bacterium that can cause mild illness.
This can include sore throats and skin infections, along with tonsillitis, cellulitis, and scarlet feverwhich is similar to the flu and tends to occur in children – can be serious if not treated quickly with antibiotics
The UKHSA report states that there have been 6,601 notifications of scarlet fever. This compares to a total of 2,538 at the same point in the last comparable high season in 2017/2018.
In rare cases, the bacteria can trigger invasive group A strep disease, which can be life-threatening or even fatal.
UKHSA said that in the 2017/18 season, which is considered the last peak season for strep A, there were 355 deaths in total, including 27 children.
There have been 169 children who have also contracted invasive group A strep (iGAS) this season, compared to 431 who developed it in 2017/18.
And there were 851 cases of group A strep in the week to November 20, compared with 186 on average in the same week in previous years.
While most cases are mild, the bacteria can sometimes enter the bloodstream and cause group A strep.
There has been an increase in cases this year, particularly in children under the age of 10.
There have been 2.3 iGAS cases per 100,000 children aged one to four years, up from 0.5 per 100,000 before the pandemic.
Strep A and Scarlet Fever Symptoms You Should Know About
There are four key signs of Group Strep A to look out for, according to the NHS. These are:
- Fever (i.e. a high temperature above 38°C)
- severe muscle pain
- Localized muscle tenderness
- Redness at the site of a wound
The NHS says that when it comes to scarlet fever, your child will most likely start out with cold-like symptoms.
Signs will include:
- high temperature
- throat pain
- swollen neck glands
- rash 12-48 hours after initial symptoms. This usually starts in the tummy and then spreads
- white coating on the tongue
- Red cheeks
The doctors said that cases of the disease have been “particularly high compared to the levels reported in the last peak season before the COVID-19 pandemic, and substantially higher than in the last two years’.
Strep A cases have increased across the UK, as have more serious cases of scarlet fever and invasive group A strep disease.
The report indicated that so far this season, since September 12, there have been 60 deaths in all age groups with invasive strep.
This includes 13 children under the age of 18.
Other data also shows that there have been 85 cases of iGAS in children ages one to four, compared to 194 in the last peak season.
In children from five to nine years old there have been 60 cases, compared to 117 in the last high season.
UKHSA added that there is no evidence to suggest that there is a new strain in circulation or that there has been an increase in antibiotic resistance.
The doctors said that seasons with very high cases occur every three to four years.
“But the social distancing measures implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic may have interrupted this cycle and explain the current increase being observed,” the report stated.
UKHSA deputy director Dr Colin Brown said both scarlet fever and strep throat are common childhood illnesses that can be treated with antibiotics.
He urged parents to contact 911 or their GP if their child is having trouble with symptoms.
‘THERE IS NO CAUSE FOR ALARM’
“On very rare occasions, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause a more serious disease called invasive group A strep.
“We know this is concerning for parents, but I want to emphasize that while we are seeing an increase in cases in children, this is still very rare.
“There are a lot of winter bugs out there that can make your child feel bad, most of which are not cause for alarm.
“However, be sure to talk to a health professional if your child worsens after a bout of scarlet fever, sore throat, or respiratory infection; watch for signs such as fever that won’t go down, dehydration, extreme tiredness, and shortness of breath.” he added.
Parents have been warning others about the signs of the disease, as the children have been battling the virus.
Mom Jenna Higham told her little boy george the screams will ‘haunt her forever’ after she was found to have strep A.
seven year old boy hanna roap He is one of those young people who have lost their lives.
What started as a mild cough deteriorated rapidly and he was tragically dead within 24 hours.
Meanwhile, another father told how he took his five-year-old son Stella Lily McCorkindale to A&E three times before dying of strep A.
And another mom has shared photos of her young son to highlight how rapid attacks of strep A after her little boy was diagnosed with the disease, in addition to scarlet fever and pneumonia.
Another girl, Eva, five years old, is currently fighting for his life on a ventilator after being hit with Strep A.
Her mother is now warning other parents to watch for signs of the disease.