Northern Ireland

Girl (5) dies from illness linked to strep A

The five-year-old was treated at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
The five-year-old was treated at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

A girl who attended a north Belfast primary school, which had reported a severe case of the bacterial infection strep A, has died.

The five-year-old was treated at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

The girl attended Black Mountain Primary School. Parents of p1 to p3 children had received a letter on Friday from the Public Health Agency which said one of its pupils was diagnosed with a severe form of strep A.

On Tuesday morning, the school spoke of its “tragic loss” and said “the thoughts of the entire school are with the pupil’s family and friends at this difficult time”.

It said in a statement: “To assist in supporting our pupils and staff at this sad time, additional trained staff from the Education Authority Critical Incident Response Team have been engaged and will be providing support to the school.

“A letter has been sent by the school to parents, informing them of our tragic loss and providing information on the support services available through school for our children during this incredibly sad time.

“We recognise that this news may cause worry amongst our school community and we want to reassure parents that we continue to work closely with the Public Health Agency at this time.”

The Public Health Agency is asking parents to be vigilant.

At one school, Brackenagh West PS near Kilkeel, 32 children have contracted either Scarlet Fever or the Strep A infection. Two are in hospital, principal Michael Peacock said.

Read More: Sharp rise in Scarlet Fever cases, fears over increase in serious Strep A infections

Eight children in Great Britain have died with a form of Strep A.

Strep A infections are usually mild and can be easily treated with antibiotics.

Illnesses caused by the Group A Strep bacteria include skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.

There has been a big leap in the number of scarlet fever cases.

Symptoms of scarlet fever include sore throat, headache and fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a “sandpapery” feel.

On darker skin, the rash can be harder to see but will still feel “sandpapery”.

Strep A infections can develop into a more serious invasive Group A Strep (iGAS) infection – though this is rare.

Last week, the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland urged parents and carers to be aware of scarlet fever symptoms after an increase in the number of cases at schools and nurseries across the region.

It said this follows two years during the coronavirus pandemic when reported cases were lower than usual.

It said clusters of scarlet fever have been reported at schools and nurseries in Antrim, Belfast, Bangor and Craigavon.