Strep A Leeds: Yorkshire has highest rate of cases in England - how it compares to every other region

The number of cases of invasive Group A strep (Strep A) in Yorkshire has been revealed in new official data.
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Nationally, rates are four times higher than usual among children aged one to four, figures released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show.

Yorkshire and the Humber has recorded the highest rates of the condition in England, according to the data. There have been seven deaths of children under 13 in the UK in recent weeks. The UKHSA has urged parents concerned about a seriously ill child to seek medical advice. The condition is caused by a bacteria called group A streptococci, which usually causes mild illnesses such as strep throat and scarlet fever. In very rare occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause invasive Group A strep (iGAS). Six children aged under 13 have died in England, with one death of a child in Wales. No deaths have been reported in either Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Yorkshire cases

A child's tongue with scarlet fever, right, of which cases are rising alongside Strep A in England. Pictures: PA/Adobestock.A child's tongue with scarlet fever, right, of which cases are rising alongside Strep A in England. Pictures: PA/Adobestock.
A child's tongue with scarlet fever, right, of which cases are rising alongside Strep A in England. Pictures: PA/Adobestock.
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A total of 75 cases of Invasive Group A Strep were recorded in Yorkshire and the Humber in the most recent 10-week period.

The region has England’s highest rates of iGAS – 1.4 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the data covering September, October and November this year. Some 610 cases of scarlet fever were also recorded in the region. The North East, North West and South East also have rates above the England average.

Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of the UKHSA, said: “We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual. The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics. In very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep.

“This is still uncommon; however, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious. Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”

Regional rates

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Below is a list of English regions, the number of cases of Invasive Group A, and, in brackets, the rate of cases per 100,000 population.

Yorkshire and the Humber: 75 (1.4)

North East: 26 (1)

North West: 74 (1)

South East: 85 (1)

South West: 49 (0.9)

West Midlands: 51 (0.9)

East Midlands: 40 (0.8)

London: 71 (0.8)

East of England: 39 (0.6)

Across England, infection rates have risen most dramatically among children aged one to four, with 2.3 cases per 100,000 - four times higher than the average rates in the three years to March 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic. And infection rates among children aged five to nine have tripled compared to this three-year average. Health officials are investigating the rise but say there is currently no evidence that a new strain is circulating.

Scarlet fever

Rates of scarlet fever, which is caused by the same bacteria, are also about four times higher than average.

The North West has the highest rates of scarlet fever, at 13 cases per 100,000 residents in the latest 10-week period. Rates are also higher than the England average in Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East and the East Midlands. Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious. Parents are advised to look out for symptoms in their child like a sore throat, headache, and fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel. On darker skin, the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will feel like sandpaper.

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Parents are advised to call 999 or go to A&E if their child is having difficulty breathing, there are pauses when their child breathes, the skin, tongue or lips are blue or the child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake.