Five deaths in Scotland between Christmas and new year have been linked to the Strep A infection, according to new figures.
Public Health Scotland (PHS) said it was aware of 12 deaths among invasive group A streptococcal infections (iGAS) cases over the period October 3 last year to January 1 2023.
That is an increase of five from the total the previous week, which covered the period up to Christmas Day, and included the two children under the age of 10.
The latest data from PHS showed no further deaths among children had been reported.
It stated: “PHS is aware of 12 deaths amongst iGAS cases that appear to meet the case definition between October 3 and January 1 2023, an increase of five deaths since the previous report.
“Two of these deaths were in children under 10 years of age, no change since the previous report.”
According to the information, 13 of the country’s 14 NHS boards had reported cases of the infection between October last year and January 1 this year.
In the week ending January 1, a total of 14 iGAS cases were reported across all age groups – with this down from 20 the previous week.
Five of the latest cases involved children under the age of 10, meaning that since the start of October there have been 25 cases in this age group.
The infection is a more severe form of Group A Streptococcus (GAS) – with PHS data showing there were 548 cases of this in the week ending January 1.
This is down from 995 in the previous week, but compares with 300 and 480 reports a week that were observed at infection peaks since 2016.
But PHS said the rise could be due to increased testing.
In its latest report, the health body said: “Increased numbers of GAS cases reported following recent communication with the public and the NHS may be a consequence of both increased ascertainment of cases due to increased testing in the community as well as actual increases in circulation of infections.”
Infections caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.
While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bacteria cause iGAS, a life-threatening infection in which the bacteria has invaded parts of the body such as the blood, deep muscle or lungs.
Early symptoms of an iGAS infection include a high temperature, severe muscle aches and localised muscle tenderness, as well as possible redness at the site of a wound.
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