Twelve Deaths In Essex Due To Rare Strep A Outbreak
Twelve people have died in Essex following a 'very serious' outbreak of a rare bacterial infection.
Contagious Group A streptococcus (also known as GAS) has infected 32 people in Essex, according to a report.
Public Health England (PHE) has warned there is a 'high risk' of more deaths from the 'ongoing outbreak'.
Most of those who have been infected with the illness are 'elderly and had been receiving care for chronic wounds in the community and care homes', according to a report by the Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
The infection can be spread through skin contact, sneezing or kissing. Many people can carry the bacteria without showing any symptoms - or getting ill themselves.
The report states: "Sometimes life-threatening GAS disease may occur when bacteria get into parts of the body where bacteria usually are not found, such as the blood, muscle, or the lungs."
Deputy director at PHE East of England Dr Jorg Hoffman, told the BBC: "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 described the outbreak as a 'very serious situation'.
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 [an infection where the bacteria is isolated from a normally sterile section of the body] is very low for the vast majority of people and treatment with antibiotics is very effective, if started early."
As a precaution it's reported that hundreds of people, including care home staff, have been swabbed and given antibiotic treatment.
The CCG has set up a freephone helpline for those concerned about the outbreak - 0300 003 2124.
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