Strep A reports have increased but no deaths in Scotland, says Yousaf

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Scotland’s Health Secretary has said the number of Strep A infections in the country has increased, but there have been no deaths from the condition.

The reassurance comes after at least nine children have reportedly died after contracting the infection, the most recent a five-year-old in Belfast.

Despite the increases elsewhere in the UK, Humza Yousaf said there was no evidence of a pronounced spike in cases in Scotland.

Public Health Scotland said on Monday there had been eight reports of invasive Group A Strep (Gas) infections in Scotland – the rarest and most severe types of infections – in children under the age of 10.

“Reports of Group A Strep infections, or Gas as it’s known, have increased right across Scotland,” the Health Secretary said in Holyrood.

“I understand, of course, that the reporting of Gas conditions will be concerning but let me offer some reassurance.

“The vast majority of Gas infections present as mild illness that is easily treated by penicillin or other antibiotics and invasive infections are, thankfully, rare.”

Mr Yousaf added that peaks in Gas conditions are expected during winter and spring, but stressed “current numbers do not exceed previous spikes”.

The Health Secretary assured MSPs that health services are “on alert” to Strep A and guidance was being drawn up for nurseries and schools.

Questioned by Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie about how children can be seen quickly, as new figures show A&E waiting times at their worst on record, Mr Yousaf said the appropriate guidance was being given across the health service, but stressed that GPs should be the primary point of contact for potential infections.

He also said there had been a “marked and significant increase” in calls to the NHS24 helpline over the weekend relating to children under the age of 14.

In a statement on Monday, Public Health Scotland’s head of health protection (infection services) Dr Jim McMenamin said: “We would encourage parents and care-givers to ensure children practice good hand and respiratory hygiene to help reduce the spread of common infections like this.

“If your child is showing signs of scarlet fever, please seek advice form a health professional as most cases respond promptly to early treatment with antibiotics.”

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