Public Health England (PHE) has warned of a ‘high risk’ of more fatalities, after an outbreak of the invasive Group A streptococcal (iGAS) infection across Essex led to 12 deaths.
‘This is still an ongoing outbreak. Unfortunately we have so far not been able to fully contain the situation’ saidDr Jorg Hoffman, deputy director of health protection for PHE East England. ‘I cannot deny that there is still an ongoing risk until we can declare that this outbreak is over.’
Group A streptococcal bacteria can be found on the hands or the throat to allow spread through sneezing, kissing and skin contact. Most infections will only cause minor illnesses, such as sore throat or scarlet fever which are easily fought off by healthy people. Most of those affected in the Essex outbreak have been elderly, and receiving treatment for wounds in either care homes or the community.
According to a report from the Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the outbreak began in Braintree in February of this year but has since spread to Chelmsford and Maldon. Hundreds of people, including care home staff have now been swabbed and some staff have been offered precautionary antibiotic treatment, the CCG said.
‘Obviously we are hoping that the efforts of our colleagues in the NHS and provider organisations are now bearing some fruit and we will be able to contain the situation and prevent further cases from happening,’ said Dr Hoffman.