Calls for investigation after 6-year-old's dies from Strep A outbreak

Death of six-year-old following Strep A outbreak at Surrey primary school sparks calls for full investigation – as another child with the illness shows ‘positive signs’

  • Calls for an investigation were made after a rare bacteria outbreak at a school
  • One child has died after contracting Strep A at the Surrey primary school
  • The six-year-old attended Ashford Church of England Primary School
  • A second child is being treated in hospital but was showing ‘positive signs’

Calls for a full investigation have been made after a bacteria outbreak at an Ashford school led to the death of a six-year-old died, and another child being taken to hospital.

The year one pupil died after they contracted the bacterial infection Group A streptococcal, also known as Strep A, at Ashford Church of England Primary School.  

A school email to parents confirmed a second child had contracted Strep A, an infection which causes scarlet fever, but was showing ‘positive signs’. 

A third child from the same area of Ashford is also said to be suffering from scarlet fever. 

The child who died is understood to be a six-year-old who attended Ashford Church of England Primary School, who tragically succumbed to the invasive Group A streptococcal (iGAS) infection

Despite the serious cases of Strep A at the school, photos taken from the scene today showed people seen working on hedges inside the school. 

Both infected pupils went to the same Surrey primary school where the outbreak occurred, and people are now seeking answers as to why this happened. 

Joanne Sexton, who represents the Ashford division at Surrey County Council, said a full investigation needed to take place. 

It’s a shock more than anything and it’s very sad news. Goodness knows how the family is feeling. My heart just goes out to them,’ she said.

What is Strep A and how can you spot it? 

Strep A is a Group A streptococcal (iGAS) infection, which affects the throat and skin

Most cases cause only mild illness, but some can be life-threatening 

The infection can lead to Scarlet Fever, which was rife in the Victorian Era

Symptoms include a rash on the throat, tongue and skin, and vomiting and diarrhoea

The illness is treatable with antibiotics 

Those with the above symptoms should call 111 immediately 

Source: UKHSA  

Surrey County Council released a statement with the UK Health Security Agency which confirmed the situation was being monitored at the school. 

Those in years 1 and 2 as well as staff were being offered antibiotics to prevent any further spread.

Dr Claire Winslade, health protection consultant at UKHSA South East, added: ‘We have provided advice to the school to help prevent further cases and will continue to monitor the situation.

‘Information has been shared with parents about the signs and symptoms of iGAS  – another name for Strep A –  which include high fever with severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea. 

‘Anyone with these symptoms should call NHS 111 immediately.’

Ms Sexton said: ‘I know all the authorities are working on it, which is great, but I hope we can find out how it happened. 

‘We need to ascertain how this has happened and how we can prevent this tragedy from ever happening again. 

‘Everyone would want the same. I’m sure they will not leave any stone unturned.

‘People are really upset about it and we have a wonderful community in Ashford. It has upset me, for a child’s life to be cut so short it’s just heartbreaking,’ she added. 

The outbreak has had knock-on effects with nearby GP surgery Studholme Medical Centre, less than a mile from the school, forced into a reduced service.

A statement on the surgery’s website read: ‘You may be aware of the unfortunate identification of two cases of invasive group A streptococcus infection which were identified in pupils attending Ashford school.

‘Given the situation we have had to divert resources and hence we are only able to run with a reduction service and less available appointments. Please bear with us at this time.’

Staff and pupils have been given antibiotics by specialists from the UK Health Security Agency. 

More tributes came from others in the Ashford area throughout the day. 

Councillor Tony Mitchell, deputy leader of Spelthorne Borough Council, with the school within his Ashford East ward, gave his condolences to those affected.

‘This is an extremely sad event and on behalf of Spelthorne Borough Council our hearts go out to the parents and family of the deceased,’ he said. 

‘Events such as this are extremely rare. Spelthorne Borough Council would be delighted to give any support.’ 

Symptoms of scarlet fever include a high temperature, a sore throat and swollen neck glands. 

There have also been a rise of cases in Sheffield and Scotland, fuelled by an outbreak at Annanhill Primary School in Kilmarnock. 

The child’s death was confirmed by the UK Health Security Agency South East’s health protection consultant Dr Claire Winslade.

She said: ‘We are extremely saddened to hear about the death of a pupil at Ashford Church of England School, and our thoughts are with their family, friends and the school community.

‘As a precautionary measure, we have recommended antibiotics to pupils and staff in the same year groups as the individuals affected. We have provided advice to the school to help prevent further cases and will continue to monitor the situation.’

Group A streptococcus (or Strep A) is known to cause scarlet fever, throat infections and, in very rare cases, invasive disease.

This can occur when bacteria get into parts of the body where bacteria are not usually found, such as the blood, muscle or the lungs.

It can happen if the bacteria get past a person’s defences, such as through an open wound or when a person’s immune system is depleted.

Most people who come into contact with the bacteria remain well and symptom-free.

An email sent by the school to parents said: ‘It is with the deepest regret and sadness that I have to inform you that a child in Tiger class, year one has sadly died after developing invasive Group A streptococcal (IGAS).

‘We are also aware that a child in a year 2 class has developed the same illness but is showing positive signs of recovery.’

The school said it comes as a ‘shock’ for the whole community and that staff were seeking advice from Public Health England on actions they should take and advice they should give to parents.

Surrey County Council director of public health Ruth Hutchinson was quoted as saying: ‘We are deeply saddened by the death of a pupil at Ashford Church of England School and we offer our sincere condolences to their family, friends and the whole school community, who are in our thoughts.’

Ruth Hutchinson, Director of Public Health, Surrey County Council said: ‘We are deeply saddened by the death of a pupil at Ashford Church of England School and we offer our sincere condolences to their family, friends and the whole school community, who are in our thoughts.

‘Our school relationships team, available 24/7, has provided the school with guidance during this tragic time and our public health team are working closely with UKHSA, school leaders and health partners to take appropriate health protection measures and ensure children, parents and carers at the school are appropriately supported.’

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