A year 8 pupil at a school in south-east London has died after contracting strep A – as another bereaved family have revealed the symptoms their son experienced in his final days.
The Colfe school wrote to parents on Thursday to inform them that a pupil had died after developing the infection.
Sky News understands the pupil was in Year 8 and over 10 years old. UKHSA’s current Strep A death figures only take into account cases in the under-10 age group, with six deaths reported on Friday.
It comes as families who have lost children to the disease warn others of the symptoms to watch out for.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sadiya Chowdhury, Muhammad Ibrahim Ali’s mother Shabana Kousar said her baby boy’s first sign of being unwell was a red rash on his lower back.
A full course of antibiotics seemed to help the four-year-old, but when his symptoms persisted two weeks later he was given Calpol.
Ibrahim’s condition worsened and he developed stomach pains.
He died in an ambulance en route to hospital in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
A week later, his post-mortem test results showed he had strep A in his blood.
Ms Kousar told Sky News that people should be more aware of early symptoms.
She said: “I think parents should be made aware of the symptoms and act accordingly if their child experiences something similar.”
Azra Ali, Ibrahim’s aunt, told Sky’s Sadiya Chowdhury that the government “must provide the right guidelines to local authorities”.
She said: “I’m afraid the public is still not aware of the seriousness of the situation because we were told on the news that it is very rare for children to die from this strep A, but unfortunately they forget that we have six dead in the space of two weeks and I think more are to come if the government does not act quickly.”
Sky News has asked the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board to comment on the case.
The highly contagious bacterial infection is often relatively mild and causes scarlet fever, but can be fatal if it enters the bloodstream and other parts of the body.
Parents are advised to be vigilant and watch for symptoms such as: pain when swallowing, fever, swollen tonsils with white spots, swollen neck glands, high temperature or rash.
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist from the University of Reading, said: “The only way to be sure someone has had a Strep A infection is to take a swab from the back of their throat and culture it in laboratory.”
He added that while “initial signals” are good indicators, “they are not proof and people should see their doctor.”
Hanna Roap, a seven-year-old girl from Wales, also died after contracting strep A.
Her father, Abul Roap, told the Telegraph his daughter was prescribed steroids for her cough and “never woke up”.
He said Hanna “didn’t get the right medicine” and if she had been given antibiotics “it could have been a different story”.
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“Living in an absolute nightmare”
Dean Burns’ daughter Camila Rose Burns has been fighting for her life on a ventilator at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool since Monday after contracting the infection.
He told Sky News he was “living through an absolute nightmare” since his daughter was hospitalized.
“She’s still far from out of the woods, she’s doing really, really badly,” he said.
Mr Burns, who lives in Bolton with his family, said there was an illness virus around Camila’s school so they watched her over the weekend.
He explained that she was complaining of chest pain.
After a hospital visit on Saturday, where doctors prescribed her an inhaler and told her she could go home, her health deteriorated on Sunday and they rushed her into A&E.
Although strep A can be a serious illness, if treated early with antibiotics it is less dangerous.
According to the UK Health Security Agency, there were 851 cases in the week to November 20, compared to an average of 186 in the same week in previous years.
He advises those who contract the disease to exclude themselves from nursery, school or work for at least 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment.
The UKHSA said the increase in cases is likely the result of the withdrawal of measures implemented during the COVID pandemic.
Dr Clarke added: “It strikes me that, as we are seeing now with influenza, the lack of mixing in children may have caused a population-wide decline in immunity which could increase transmission, especially in school-aged children.”