Welsh mum warns parents to be aware of symptoms of Strep A after daughters fell ill with the bacteria
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
A mum is warning other parents to be aware of the symptoms of Strep A infections after her two daughters became poorly with the bacteria.
Joanne Jones, from Llandudno, said her eight-year-old daughter Jasmine started feeling unwell, which she initially mistook for a chest infection.
“My daughter started off with a cough, which got worse,” she said. “I thought she maybe had a chest infection. Then it turned into some kind of sickness bug, so I thought she had one of those 24-hour things.
“But after four days of hardly eating, I knew it wasn’t just a bug. At times she seemed OK. Then her temp would spike to 40 degrees.
“She would go bright red, and it felt like I was holding a hot water bottle from the heat coming off her face, back, and chest. Then she got more and more drowsy nearing the end of the week, to the point she just couldn’t stop coughing.
“She was leaning into me, falling asleep on the street. Then I noticed she had a rash like a strawberry on her tongue, and a rash came out on her cheeks, but it can also be on children’s chest and back.
“I took her into A&E at 2 am, waiting nine and a half hours to see someone before he said, ‘I don’t want to alarm you with what’s in the media, but she’s got scarlet fever, which comes from a bacterial infection called strep A’.
“So I said, ‘the one that’s killed children on the news?’, and he looked at me and said ‘yes’.
“He gave me a prescription to start with immediate effect, and I was told to keep all three of my children off school as it’s highly contagious.”
She added: “It’s been seven days now. Jasmine’s on her fifth penicillin tablet and is just starting to get her appetite back.”
Although Streptococcus A infections are common, most often causing a relatively mild illness, eight children from across the UK have died in recent weeks after developing a rare complication. Public Health Wales says the complication, known as iGAS, is an invasive infection but rare.
But figures released this week show that scarlet fever is on the rise. Between January and October this year, there have been 1,512 recorded cases of scarlet fever in the UK, which is caused by Strep A, compared to 948 in the same period last year. Strep A can also cause other types of infections, including throat, chest, and skin infections.
Now Joanne’s youngest daughter Ophelia, three, has also caught the infection, and she is worried it’s only a matter of time before her six-year-old son Louie also catches the virus too.
“Last night Ophelia was getting the exact same symptoms, a red rash on her face and spots on her tongue.
“Her temp was 39.3 degrees. She was coughing and sick. I called 111 who got me in touch with the out-of-hours, and they said they didn’t need to see her since her sister had it, so we could assume that’s what it was, and they left a prescription for the same drugs for me, which she started this morning.”
Joanne said her children also had white patches in their throats that were difficult to see as well as swollen glands.
“Louie seems totally fine, strangely, but I have a feeling he might be next as it’s highly contagious,” she said.
Joanne wanted to warn other parents to act quickly if they thought their children were poorly, claiming she had to wait over nine hours in A&E for treatment.
“If something doesn’t seem right, go straight to the doctor,” she said.
“One minute they seem completely fine and just turn so quickly.
“In the doctor’s surgery, they are so quick to palm you off with a viral infection and no treatment. They don’t like handing antibiotics out.
“I genuinely think the only reason my daughter was thoroughly checked was because we had sat waiting in A&E for nine hours, so they felt obliged.
“In a surgery, doctors could be telling a lot of people it’s just viral and sending them home two or three times before parents go back.”
She added: “It’s not good enough. If it’s left, it’s life-threatening. Seven children have died now.”
Speaking on behalf of Public Health Wales, Dr Graham Brown, consultant in communicable disease control, said: “While we understand that parents are likely to be worried by reports they are seeing related to iGAS, the condition remains rare.
“Cold and flu-like symptoms are very common at this time of year, especially in children. Most will have a common seasonal virus, which can be treated by keeping the child hydrated and with paracetamol.
“Some children with cold and flu-like symptoms – sore throat, headache, fever – may be experiencing some of the early symptoms of scarlet fever, which also circulates at this time of year. These children will go on to develop scarlet fever-specific symptoms, including a fine pink-red rash that feels like sandpaper to touch, and parents should contact their GP.
“While scarlet fever is more concerning, it is still usually a mild illness from which most children will recover without complications, especially if the condition is properly treated with antibiotics.
“In very rare cases, group A streptococcal infection can cause iGAS, a rare complication which affects fewer than 20 children in Wales each year.
“Although iGAS is a worrying condition, the majority of these children will recover with proper treatment.
“The best thing that parents can do is to provide the care they would usually provide for a child with cold and flu-like symptoms, but to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of scarlet fever and iGAS as a precaution.
“It is also important that children from two years upwards are protected from seasonal flu and have the vaccine.”
Conwy County Council said it was advising parents through schools.
“As this subject has been in the national media over recent weeks, we have shared Public Health Wales’ guidance about streptococcal disease with all our schools,” said a spokeswoman.
Symptoms of scarlet fever
The symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
This is followed by a fine red rash, which typically first appears on the chest and stomach, rapidly spreading to other parts of the body. Older children may not have the rash.
On more darkly pigmented skin, the scarlet rash may be harder to spot, but it should feel like ‘sandpaper’. The face can be flushed red but pale around the mouth.
Parents who suspect their child has symptoms of scarlet fever are advised that they should:
- Contact their GP, visit 111.wales.nhs.ukor call NHS 111 Wales as soon as possible
- Make sure their child takes the full course of any antibiotics prescribed by the doctor
- Keep their child at home, away from nursery, school, or work and follow any guidance provided by their GP on how long they should remain absent from these settings.
Symptoms of iGAS
- Fever (a high temperature above 38°C)
- Severe muscle aches
- Localised muscle tenderness
- Redness at the site of a wound.
Parents are being advised to contact their GP or get medical advice straight away if they think their child has any of the signs and symptoms of iGAS disease.
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