Schools affected by Strep A in Scotland could get antibiotics

Public Health Scotland said on Monday there had been eight reports of invasive Group A Strep infections.

Schools affected by Strep A in Scotland could get antibiotics, says health secretary Humza Yousaf iStock

Pupils at schools in Scotland with Strep A cases could receive antibiotics as the number of infections across the country rises.

It comes after at least nine children have reportedly died after contracting the infection, the most recent a five-year-old in Belfast.

While the number of Strep A infections in Scotland has increased, there have been no deaths in the country from the condition, the health secretary has reassured.

Despite the increases elsewhere in the UK, Humza Yousaf said there was no evidence of a pronounced spike in cases in Scotland.

Public Health Scotland said on Monday there had been eight reports of invasive Group A Strep (Gas) infections in Scotland – the rarest and most severe types of infections – in children under the age of ten.

Speaking at Holyrood, Yousaf said: “Reports of Group A Strep infections, or Gas as it’s known, have increased right across Scotland.

“There have been no reported deaths in Scotland from related Group A Strep or indeed invasive Group A Strep conditions.

“I understand, of course, that the reporting of Gas conditions will be concerning but let me offer some reassurance.

“The vast majority of Gas infections present as mild illness that is easily treated by penicillin or other antibiotics and invasive infections are, thankfully, rare.”

The health secretary added that peaks in Gas conditions are expected during winter and spring, but stressed “current numbers do not exceed previous spikes”.

He assured MSPs that health services are “on alert” for Strep A and guidance was being drawn up for nurseries and schools.

Scottish Conservative MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane asked the health secretary whether the Scottish Government was considering preventative antibiotics for schools amid the rise in cases.

Yousaf responded: “I’ve asked Public Health Scotland and my clinical colleagues to give advice to that effect.

“What I would say is the levels of GAS infection we’re seeing, those cases are mild.

“But we’re not complacent, we do expect cases to rise over the coming weeks hence why I’ve asked clinicians to give advice on the very issue Sandesh Gulhane has raised.”

When questioned by Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie about how children can be seen quickly as new figures show A&E waiting times at their worst on record, Yousaf said the appropriate guidance was being given across the health service, but stressed that GPs should be the primary point of contact for potential infections.

He also said there had been a “marked and significant increase” in calls to the NHS 24 helpline over the weekend relating to children under the age of 14.

In a statement on Monday, Public Health Scotland’s head of health protection, infection services, Dr Jim McMenamin said: “We would encourage parents and caregivers to ensure children practice good hand and respiratory hygiene to help reduce the spread of common infections like this.

“If your child is showing signs of scarlet fever, please seek advice from a health professional as most cases respond promptly to early treatment with antibiotics.”

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