Nurses told to take antibiotics in bid to prevent further deaths from rare infection

Death toll rises to 13 as authorities try to contain Group A streptococcus outbreak in Essex

Death toll rises to 13 as authorities try to contain Group A streptococcus outbreak in Essex

Group A streptococcus. Picture: Alamy

Nursing staff are being given antibiotics and there is a deep clean of nursing bases to limit the spread of a rare bacterial infection that has killed 13 people in Essex. 

The number of deaths linked to an outbreak of the invasive Group A streptococcus (GAS), rose from 12 following a review by health officials. 

There are now a total of 34 reported cases of the infection in this outbreak.

Control measures

An incident team has been established and control measures have been put in place. These include a programme of preventative antibiotics for community nurses in mid-Essex, a deep clean of community nursing bases and swabs being taken from adult patients treated by the teams.

An NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group spokesperson said: ‘As part of the monitoring and risk assessments of this outbreak, Public Health England have further reviewed how cases are defined in this outbreak to ensure all appropriate cases are captured and investigated.

‘As a result, an additional case has been added to the total outbreak count. This patient passed away with sepsis earlier this year.’

The outbreak began in Braintree and has since spread to the Chelmsford and Maldon areas.

Vulnerable patients

Most of those affected were older people receiving treatment for wounds. Some were in care homes but most were in their own homes.

One case was identified in Basildon in 2018 and another was reported in Southend in February 2019 but there does not appear to be a direct link between those cases and the recent infections elsewhere in Essex, officials said.

Ease of transmission

Bacteria can be found in the throat and on the skin and people may carry it without displaying any symptoms. The bacteria can live long enough to allow easy spread between people by sneezing, kissing and skin contact.

In a report, the clinical commissioning group said the ‘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’.

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