A Year 8 pupil at a school in southeast London has died after contracting Strep A – as another bereaved family revealed the symptoms their son experienced in his final days.
Colfe’s School wrote to parents on Thursday to inform them a student had died after developing the infection.
Sky News understands that the pupil was in Year 8 and over the age of 10. Current UKHSA figures on Strep A deaths only account for cases in the under-10 age group, with six deaths reported as of Friday.
It comes as families who have lost children to the disease warn others about the symptoms to look out for.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sadiya Chowdhury, Muhammad Ibrahim Ali’s mother, Shabana Kousar, said the first sign of her little boy being unwell was a red rash across his lower back.
A full course of antibiotics appeared to help the four-year-old, but when his symptoms persisted two weeks later, she was given Calpol for him.
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 the initial symptoms.
She said: “I believe parents should be made aware of the symptoms and act on it if their child is experiencing something similar”.
Azra Ali, Ibrahim’s aunt, told Sky’s Sadiya Chowdhury that the government “needs to provide the correct guidance to local authorities”.
She said: “I’m worried that the public are still unaware of how serious this is as we’ve been told on the news that it’s very rare that children die from this strep A, but unfortunately they’re forgetting that we’ve had six deaths within the space of two weeks and I believe more are to come if the government don’t act quickly.”
Sky News has asked 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 deadly if it enters the bloodstream and other parts of the body.
Parents are being urged to be vigilant and look out for symptoms which include: pain when swallowing, fever, swollen tonsils with white patches, swollen neck glands, a high temperature or a skin rash.
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist from The University of Reading, said: “The only way of being sure that somebody has got Strep A infection is to take a swab from the back of their throat and culture it in a laboratory.”
He added that while the “initial signals” are good indicators, “they are not proof and people should see their doctors”.
Hanna Roap, a seven-year-old girl from Wales, also died after contracting Strep A.
Her father, Abul Roap, told The Telegraph that his daughter was prescribed steroids for her cough and “never woke up”.
He said Hanna “did not get the right medication” and said if she had been given antibiotics “it could have been potentially a different story.”
‘Living in an absolute nightmare’
Dean Burns’s daughter, Camila Rose Burns, has been fighting for her life on a ventilator at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool since Monday after she contracted the infection.
He told Sky News he’s been “living in an absolute nightmare” since his daughter was taken to hospital.
“She’s still nowhere near out of the woods, she’s really, really poorly,” he said.
Mr Burns, who lives in Bolton with his family, said there was a sickness bug going around Camila’s school, so they kept an eye on her over the weekend.
He explained that she had been complaining about her chest hurting.
After one visit to the hospital on Saturday, where doctors prescribed an inhaler and said she could go home, her health deteriorated on Sunday, and they rushed her into A&E.
While Strep A can be a serious illness, if treated promptly with antibiotics it is less of a threat.
According to the UK Health Security Agency there were 851 cases in the week to 20 November, compared to 186 on average in the same week in previous years.
It advises those who come down with the illness to exclude themselves from nursery, school or work for at least 24 hours after they start antibiotic treatment.
The UKHSA has 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 with flu at the moment, lack of mixing in kids may have caused a drop in population-wide immunity that could increase transmission, particularly in school age children.”