Health authorities have moved to reassure parents after it was confirmed that an invasive form of Strep A was linked to the death of a four-year-old child in Ireland.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) had been investigating whether invasive Group A streptococcal had been a factor in the death of the child in the north east area of the country.
“We can now confirm that invasive Group A Streptococcal infection was found to be the cause of the infection associated with their death,” it said.
Public health staff are supporting the family as well as the school the child had attended.
Health authorities have contacted schools and childcare providers with information on Strep A infections, including scarlet fever and other winter viruses.
The Chief Medical Officer Breda Smyth and health authorities have stressed that while it is a worrying time for parents, most children who get ill from a Strep A infection will have a mild illness which can be treated with antibiotics.
The advice stresses that if a child is seriously unwell, particularly if they are getting worse, professional medical advice should be sought.
“As a parent, if you feel that your child is seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgement,” the HSE advice states.
Dr Eamonn O’Moore, director of the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre said, “The news of a child death with Strep A will be worrying for parents, but it’s important to know that most children who get ill from Group A Strep infections will have a mild illness which can be treated with antibiotics.
“Group A Streptococci are a common bacteria that are often and usually relatively mild and self-limiting.
“They can cause infections like tonsillitis and pharyngitis and scarlet fever.
“The HPSC is closely monitoring Strep A and scarlet fever and as yet there is no evidence that a new strain is in circulation.”
Since the beginning of October, there has been a small increase in invasive Strep A in Ireland.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has so far been notified of 56 invasive Strep A cases in Ireland.
While 15 were in children aged under 10 years old, this compares with 22 cases in children aged under 10 for the same period in 2019.
Although Group A Streptococcal infections like scarlet fever are common, the more serious invasive infections – also known as “iGAS” – are rare.
The HSE said that during the pandemic, normal social mixing was interrupted, which has led to changes in how diseases such as Strep A presented this winter.
A fever, a raised rash which can feel rough to the touch like sandpaper, a sore throat, and a swollen tongue are among the symptoms of GAS infections.
Parents and school staff with concerns have been urged to use information on the HSE and HPSC websites.