Antibiotics could be given to children in schools affected by strep A to stop the spread of the infection, said Minister for Schools Nick Gibb.
Mr Gibb told Sky News that the UK Health and Safety Agency (UKHSA) is “working closely with affected schools and giving very specific advice to schools which may involve the use of penicillin”.
He added that health officials “will have more to say about it.”
“They give more general advice to parents, which is to watch for symptoms – so sore throat, fever, high temperature and also a red or raised rash on the skin are symptoms of this invasion. Strep A outbreak.”
His comments came after the eighth death of a child from the infection.
The idea was first hinted at by Health Minister Lord Markham in the House of Lords on Monday.
The Tory peer said: “We have given instructions to doctors that if necessary they should proactively prescribe penicillin as the best line of defense on this, and also where there is spread in schools. which we know is the primary vector for this disease, whether they should work with local health protection teams, and sometimes even consider the use of antibiotics prophylactically.”
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Overnight, the journal i reported that penicillin or another antibiotic should be given to all children in an age group who have had a case of strep A – even if they have no symptoms.
GPs generally avoid mass prescribing of antibiotics as this can build resistance to serious infections in the population.
But the newspaper quotes health officials as confirming the plan and saying isolating children during the pandemic may have contributed to their reduced immunity.
The UK Health Security Agency has told the PA news agency that the measure of prescribing antibiotics to children in a school or nursery exposed to non-invasive Strep A is “rare”.
The agency added that the move is only being considered in “exceptional circumstances” by the Outbreak Control Team (OCT) on a “case by case” basis.
“There is no strong evidence for the effectiveness (of antibiotics) in the routine control of outbreaks in this setting (involving children who have been in contact with non-invasive Strep A),” said the UKHSA.
“It may be considered in exceptional circumstances by the OCT, for example when there are reports of serious outcomes or hospitalizations.
“In schools and nurseries, antibiotic chemoprophylaxis is not routinely recommended for contacts of non-invasive GAS (group A streptococcus) infection.”
Asked about the recent rise in cases on Monday, of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Official spokesperson said: “We are seeing a higher number of group A strep cases this year than usual.
“The bacteria we know causes a mild infection that is easily treated with antibiotics, and in rare cases can enter the bloodstream and cause serious illness.
“It’s still rare, but it’s important for parents to be on the lookout for symptoms.”
Strep A infections are usually mild and can be easily treated with antibiotics.
Illnesses caused by group A strep bacteria include impetigo, scarlet fever, and strep throat.
There has been a big jump in the number of scarlet fever cases.
From November 14 to 20, 851 cases were reported, compared to an average of 186 for the same period in previous years.
Symptoms of scarlet fever include sore throat, headache, and fever, as well as a thin, pinkish or red rash with a “sandpaper” feel.
On darker skin, the rash may be harder to see but will still be “sandy”.