Preventative antibiotics could be given to children at schools affected by strep A infections, a minister has said.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said health bosses were monitoring the situation after eight children died in the recent outbreak.
Experts believe that low rates of mixing among children during the pandemic may have contributed to them having reduced immunity to the strep A bacteria.
Health chiefs have sent an “urgent public health message” to GPs advising them to be vigilant for severe strep A infections.
Meanwhile, Downing Street has told parents be on the “lookout” for symptoms of Strep A in children following a string of deaths.
Gibb told GB News: “Lord Markham said in the House of Lords yesterday that the UK Health and Security Agency are monitoring the position and are considering those kind of issues in those schools where there is an infection.
“This is an ongoing situation, the UKHSA are involved very closely with those schools and they will be providing further advice later on.
“But that may well be an option for those particular schools where there is an infection.”
According to the NHS, symptoms for Strep A include:
- pain when swallowing
- swollen tonsils with white patches
- swollen neck glands
- a high temperature
- a skin rash
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told the PA news agency the measure of prescribing antibiotics to children in a school or nursery exposed to non-invasive strep A was “rare”.
The agency added the move is only considered in “exceptional circumstances” by the Outbreak Control Team [OCT] on a “case-by-case basis”.
“There is no good evidence of [antibiotics’] effectiveness in routine outbreak control in this setting (involving children who have been contacts of non-invasive Strep A),” UKHSA said.
“It can be considered in exceptional circumstances by the OCT, for example when there are reports of severe outcomes, or hospitalisations.”
It comes after an eighth child was believed to have died with an invasive form of the strep A bacteria. They were reportedly from Hampshire.
Shortly before that, a year eight student at a secondary school in south east London was confirmed as the seventh death from the infection.
Most often symptoms are mild and can be easily treated with antibiotics.
However, very rarely strep A can also cause group A streptococcal infection or iGAS which can be deadly.