Twelve die in Essex as rare bug infects dozens of vulnerable elderly
Twelve people have died after 32 became infected in a “very serious” outbreak of a rare contagious bacteria.
Public Health England (PHE) yesterday warned there was a “high risk” of further fatalities from the “ongoing outbreak” of the invasive Group A streptococcal (iGAS) infection.
The bacteria can be found in the throat and on the skin and people may carry it without displaying any symptoms.
It can live in throats and on hands for long enough to allow easy spread between people through sneezing, kissing and skin contact.
Most infections cause mild illnesses such as “strep throat,” scarlet fever or a skin infection. But the bacteria can enter the body and cause severe and life-threatening conditions.
Health officials said most of those affected were pensioners receiving care for chronic wounds, in care homes and the community.
The first cases are understood to have been identified in February with cases found in Braintree, Chelmsford and Maldon.
Dr Jorg Hoffman, deputy director of health protection for PHE East of England, described it as “a very serious situation”.
He said: “This is still an ongoing outbreak. Unfortunately we have so far not been able to fully contain the situation.
“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.
“I cannot deny that there is still an ongoing risk until we can declare that this outbreak is over,” he told the BBC.
Rachel Hearn, director of nursing and quality, Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have died.
“The risk of contracting iGAS is very low for the vast majority of people and treatment with antibiotics is very effective if started early.
“We will continue to work with our partners in Public Health England to investigate how this outbreak occurred and take every possible step to ensure our local community is protected.”
Hundreds of people, including staff in care homes, have been swabbed and community staff working for adult services providers have been given precautionary antibiotic treatment, the CCG said.
Rachel Hearn, director of nursing and quality at Mid Essex CCG, said: “The NHS in Essex is working closely with Public Health England and other partners to manage this local incident, and extra infection control measures have been put in place.
“The risk of contracting iGAS is very low for the vast majority of people and treatment with antibiotics is very effective, if started early.”
Anyone concerned about the outbreak can call the CCG’s freephone helpline on 0300 003 2124.
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