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Strep A

Important information: Group A Strep (GAS) and Invasive Group A Strep

Information from Public Health, Surrey County Council

To: Students, parents and carers

At this time of year, colds caused by viruses are common and they usually clear up themselves in a few days. 

As you may be aware, there has been a national increase in Scarlet fever cases, which is also a common, and usually a mild illness caused by bacteria called Group A Strep (GAS). GAS is a common bacteria and lots of us carry it in our throats and on our skin and it doesn’t always result in illness. However, GAS can cause a number of infections, some mild and some more serious, such as strep throat, impetigo and scarlet fever. 

In very rare occasions, the GAS bacteria can get into the lungs or bloodstream and cause a more serious illness called invasive Group A Strep (iGAS). While still uncommon, there has been an increase in iGAS cases this year, particularly in children under 10, and some children have sadly died. We know this will be worrying, but this bacterial infection is very rare. 

Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is very infectious. Look out for symptoms, which include a sore throat, headache, and fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel. On darker skin, the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will have a sandpapery feel. Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you suspect a case of scarlet fever, because early treatment of scarlet fever with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications. 

If your child has scarlet fever, keep them at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others.

What to do if your child is unwell 

There are lots of viruses that cause sore throats, colds and coughs circulating. These should resolve without medical intervention. However, children can on occasion develop a bacterial infection on top of a virus and that can make them more unwell.

Contact NHS 111 or your GP if

• your child is getting worse 

• your child is eating much less than normal • your child shows other signs of dehydration 

• you have a baby is under 3 months with a temperature of 38°C, or is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 39°C or higher; or your baby feels hotter than usual when you touch their back or chest, or feels sweaty 

• your child is very tired or irritable 

Call 999 or go to A&E if: 

• your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs 

• there are pauses when your child breathes 

• your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue 

• your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake 

Good hand and respiratory hygiene are important for stopping the spread of many bugs. Regularly wash hands with soap for 20 seconds; use a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes; and keep away from others when feeling unwell.