A five-year-old child at a Belfast primary school which last week reported a severe case of strep A has becone the ninth child to die after contracting the bacteria.
Black Mountain Primary School, which has sent a letter to parents, spoke of its “tragic loss” and said “the thoughts of the entire school are with the pupil’s family and friends at this difficult time”.
It said in a statement: “To assist in supporting our pupils and staff at this sad time, additional trained staff from the Education Authority Critical Incident Response Team have been engaged and will be providing support to the school.
“A letter has been sent by the school to parents, informing them of our tragic loss and providing information on the support services available through school for our children during this incredibly sad time.
“We recognise that this news may cause worry amongst our school community and we want to reassure parents that we continue to work closely with the Public Health Agency at this time.”
Health Authorities in Northern Ireland have yet to comment.
Eight cases of the bacteria have been found in children under ten in Scotland, according to the latest figures.
Strep A infections are usually mild and can be easily treated with antibiotics.
Illnesses caused by the Group A strep bacteria include skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.
There has been a big leap in the number of scarlet fever cases.
Symptoms of scarlet fever include sore throat, headache and fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a “sandpapery” feel.
On darker skin, the rash can be harder to see but will still be “sandpapery”.
Strep A infections can develop into a more serious invasive Group A Strep (iGAS) infection – though this is rare.
Last week, the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland urged parents and carers to be aware of scarlet fever symptoms after an increase in the number of cases at schools and nurseries across the region.
It said this follows two years during the coronavirus pandemic when reported cases were lower than usual.