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Strep A cases are rising: the 6 symptoms you should be aware of

what are the signs of strep a
The six main Strep A symptoms to be aware ofMaskot - Getty Images

Heartbreaking reports say that an eighth child has died from Strep A, a bacterial infection, in the UK since September this year. The disease is usually treatable with antibiotics (with penicillin being commonplace), is typically mild and rarely fatal, however it can lead to complications such as scarlet fever, or a severe infection (when the bacteria enters parts of the body that are usually free from bacteria such as the lungs, blood or muscles).

It's believed that five children under the age of five has passed away from Strep A in recent months, with a twelve-year-old in London and a seven-year-old in Wales also dying from the infection. In Ireland, the HSE has confirmed that two older adults have died of Strep A this year.

The UK government reports that the number of scarlet fever and severe Strep A cases reported in week 46 of this year was 851, a stark contrast when compared to the average of previous years, which sits at around the 186 mark.

Now, many people are wondering what the symptoms of Strep A are and whether adults can catch it to.

What are the symptoms of Strep A?

It can be tricky to spot the signs of Strep A (Group A Streptococcal Infection), as many symptoms can easily be confused with other conditions. For example a high fever and sore throat are both common.

Symptoms to be aware of include:

  • High temperature

  • Swollen glands

  • Sore throat (that can come on quickly and cause painful swallowing)

  • Muscle aches

  • A 'sandpapery' red rash, that feels rough to the touch

  • If the infection has developed into scarlet fever, one key sign to be aware of is a bright red tongue or tongue with spotted markings, that doctors sometimes refer to as 'strawberry tongue' due to its likeness to the fruit

The UK Health Security Agency recommends: "Anyone with high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea should call NHS 111 and seek medical help immediately."

A cough or runny nose is not usually indicative of Strep A.

woman cuddles daughter who is unwell
miniseries - Getty Images

Can adults get strep A?

Yes, anybody can catch Strep A, but it's very rare that it will develop into a serious illness or that it cannot be treated with antibiotics. Oftentimes, those who do become very unwell with Strep A will be aware that they already have a compromised immune system (e.g. they may be undergoing treatment for cancer) and can consult their medical team with any concerns or questions.

How do you catch Strep A?

Strep A can be spread via coughs, sneezes and talking, which can create respiratory droplets that contain bacteria. Close contact such as kissing, hugging or sharing a glass with somebody who has Strep A can also cause the infection to spread. It typically takes two to five days to fall ill with strep throat once you have been exposed to group A strep bacteria.

As per the NHS, streptococcal infections are diagnosed by testing a swab from the throat, or by a blood or urine test.

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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