‘Get help immediately’ if you have these symptoms after 12 people die

People are being warned to visit a GP ‘straight away’ if suffering from any of the symptoms of Strep A after a ‘very serious’ outbreak saw 12 people die.

It was revealed yesterday that at least 32 cases of the disease, called invasive Group A streptococcus (iGAS), have so far been reported in Essex.

Around a third of those diagnosed have died, the NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group said.

The bacteria can be found in the throat and on the skin and can live long enough to allow it to easily spread between people through sneezing, kissing and skin contact.

Public Health England warned yesterday there was a ‘high risk’ of further fatalities from the ‘ongoing outbreak’.

What to look out for

Speaking to Metro.co.uk, a spokeswoman today said symptoms people should look out for include ‘bacteria in a wound’.

She said: ‘If there is a difference in a wound, that could be a symptom.

‘Look out for additional pains, redness around the outside, excess heat or discharge from the area of the wound.

‘Other symptoms include a fever or feeling generally unwell, tiredness or loss of appetite.’

When asked if people shouldn’t be looking out for all the symptoms, the spokeswoman replied: ‘No, some people may just have one.’

E Medicine Health said additional symptoms include sore throats, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, enlarged tonsils, rashes, pus collections on the tonsils, tiny red spots on the palate, headaches and abdominal pain.

People are advised to visit their GP ‘straight away’ if they feel they may have any of the above symptoms.

GPs may then draw blood or swab the infected area to see if you have a GAS infection.

What are the symptoms of Group A Streptococcus (GAS)?

– Changes to a wound

– Sore throat

– Enlarged lymph nodes

– Enlarged tonsils

– Rashes

– Pus on tonsils

– Red spots on the palate

– Headaches

– Abdominal pain

Rachel Hearn, director of nursing and quality, Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: ‘Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have died.

‘The NHS in Essex is working closely with Public Health England and other partners to manage this local incident, and extra infection control measures have been put in place to prevent the infection spreading in the area.

‘The risk of contracting iGAS is very low for the vast majority of people and treatment with antibiotics is very effective if started early.

‘We will continue to work with our partners in Public Health England to investigate how this outbreak occurred and take every possible step to ensure our local community is protected.’

Dr Jorg Hoffman, deputy director of health protection for PHE East of England told the BBC: ‘This is still an ongoing outbreak. Unfortunately we have so far not been able to fully contain the situation.

‘Obviously we are hoping that the efforts of our colleagues in the NHS and provider organisations are now bearing some fruit and we will be able to contain the situation and prevent further cases from happening.

‘I cannot deny that there is still an ongoing risk until we can declare that this outbreak is over.’

What is Strep A?

Group A Streptococcus, abbreviated as GAS, is a bacteria found in the throat and on the skin.

Infections caused by it tend to be mild illnesses such as ‘strep throat’, which will cause soreness, or a skin condition such as impetigo which starts with red sores or blisters.

It can survive in throats and on hands for long enough to allow easy spread between people through sneezing, kissing and skin contact, and many carriers will have no symptoms.

On rare occasions, bacteria can cause other severe and even life-threatening diseases such as the invasive group A streptococcal disease.

This can occur when bacteria get into parts of the body where bacteria are not usually found, such as the blood, muscle, or the lungs.

It can happen if the bacteria get past a person’s defences, such as through an open wound or when a person’s immune system is depleted.

Most people who come into contact with the bacteria remain well and symptom-free.

Healthy people can get invasive group A streptococcal disease from a relative or a member of their household but it is very rare.

Early signs and symptoms of invasive group A streptococcal disease include high fever, severe muscle aches, localised muscle tenderness and redness at the site of a wound.

A Public Health England report of May this year said the median age of patients with group A streptococcal disease this season is 57.

It said the number of invasive group A streptococcal disease is lower than last season.

It cautions that clinicians should ‘continue to be mindful of potential increases in invasive disease and maintain a high index of suspicion in relevant patients’ as early recognition can be lifesaving.