A young child has died after being diagnosed with Strep A – the eighth to have been killed by the bacterial infection in recent weeks.
The latest victim was a pupil at Morelands Primary School in Waterlooville, Hampshire.
An invasive form of the Strep A bacterial infection has spread across the UK in recent months, with No 10 warning parents to be “on the lookout” for symptoms.
The infection usually causes a sore throat, scarlet fever or skin rash and is passed by physical contact or through droplets from sneezing or coughing.
The UK Health Security Agency said it was important that “accurate information is shared with the school community” in Hampshire.
Simon Bryant, director of public health at Hampshire County Council, said the authority was “working closely with the school to raise awareness amongst parents and carers of the signs and symptoms of Group A Streptococcal infections”.
He added: “I would stress that contracting (this) disease from another person is very rare.
“Most people who come into contact with Group A Streptococcal infections remain well and symptom-free – and therefore there is no reason for children to be kept home if well.”
Downing Street said the NHS was “well prepared”, adding that there was no current shortage of the antibiotic amoxicillin, which is used to treat bacterial infections, as far as it was aware.
Addressing the recent rise in cases, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year compared to usual.
“The bacteria we know causes a mild infection which is easily treated with antibiotics and in rare circumstances it can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness.”
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said her department was “monitoring the situation and working with the public authorities”.
She is advising parents who have concerns to call 111.
Microbiologist Dr Simon Clarke, from the University of Reading, said he wasn’t aware of any evidence of a new strain but suggested that a “drop in population-wide immunity,” as a result of children not mixing during the COVID pandemic, “could increase transmission”.
He added that although cases didn’t appear to be linked, he believes “further cases over the coming weeks and months” are likely.