Carmarthenshire primary school hit by scarlet fever outbreak
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Two pupils at a Carmarthenshire primary school with an outbreak of scarlet fever have required hospital treatment, a senior councillor said.
Cllr Glynog Davies said around two dozen children at Brynaman primary school were suffering from the bacterial infection. One of the two more serious cases had been admitted to Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales.
Cllr Davies, addressing a meeting of full council, said five schools in Carmarthenshire had scarlet fever cases of varying numbers and that the authority was working very closely with Public Health Wales (PHW).
Scarlet fever is caused by a bacteria group called streptococcus, known as step A. It causes flu-like symptoms such as a temperature, sore throat and swollen neck glands. Other symptoms include a rash with a sand-papery feel and a red, swollen tongue.
Cllr Davies, cabinet member for education and Welsh language, said it was a very serious disease which spread through direct contact, through droplets in the air, and through people using the same equipment and utensils.
“Once diagnosed the treatment is quite simple – usually penicillin, antibiotics, ” he said.
Cllr Davies said headteachers were given a briefing on the situation on Monday, plus a letter from PHW, and that schools had to follow certain guidelines.
“It is very important that we raise awareness,” he said.
“If there are two or more cases in a 10-day period in a school, the school would have to notify the health protection team for further guidance.”
He added that a letter had also been sent to parents and carers in Carmarthenshire, and that if they had concerns about a child’s health they should contact their GP.
The issue had been raised in the meeting by opposition leader Cllr Rob James, who asked if the council would increase its cleaning of schools with high numbers of strep A cases to try to prevent its spread.
Cllr Davies said it would do so if PHW recommended it. He also urged people to wash their hands frequently and to cover their face when coughing and sneezing.
Cllr Davies said he had been advised by his son – a GP – that there was a shortage of antibiotics currently. The Welsh Government said it was working with the UK Government to procure more antibiotics.
Most people with a strep A infection do not get extremely sick, but it can, in a small number of cases, be fatal.
Eluned Morgan, minister for health and social services, told the Senedd there had been a rise in demand for antibiotics to treat the Strep A infection.
“That has led to some pharmacies in Wales experiencing shortages of stock.
“We’re confident that suppliers are working to address any supply issues and if people find difficulty obtaining prescriptions locally they may need to visit a different pharmacy and if they’re still not able to then they can go back to the GP and they can prescribe an alternative treatment.
“We are working with the UK Government medicine supply team and other partners to make sure that pharmacies in Wales have the supplies that they need.
“We think this has happened because perhaps of the lack of social mixing over the past couple of years.
“What we’re seeing now is a number of cases of this common bacterial infection circulating at the same time as that wide range of winter respiratory infections and we think that’s what’s resulted in the increase in the number of those rarer and more serious invasive strep A diseases.
“Thankfully, we’re still at fairly low numbers, but we don’t know what’s coming next, so it is obviously a very concerning time for people with young children.”
The minister added: “I think it’s important also to understand that scarlet fever does occur in Britain but what we’ve seen is quite a large increase and it’s strange to see that kind of increase at this time of year. It usually happens in the spring.
“Of course, there’s great pressure on A&E departments at present, so we will be ensuring that children have another route through the system.
“What we saw over the weekend was a very great increase in the numbers who were phoning 111 for support.”
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