A MEDICAL expert has warned vulnerable grandparents to be vigilant as the deadly spread of Strep A looms large this Christmas.
The death toll of children who have died with the illness has hit 16 – and statistics show the elderly are not immune.
The latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency show among those over 75 there have been 140 cases of invasive Group A Strep.
Of that group, 23 have died as a result of an infection.
Group A Streptococcus is a bacteria commonly found on the skin or in the throat.
In very rare cases, it can become invasive and enter parts of the body where bacteria are not normally found, which can be life-threatening.
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University of East Anglia medicine professor Paul Hunter told the Daily Mail that while the most common victims are children, it is crucial to remember Group A Strep can kill the elderly too.
He said: "Christmas is a time when older people and their grandchildren come together and mix.
"So families with elderly and vulnerable grandparents should think about the risk from Strep A, particularly if there is a child who has a sore throat right before Christmas, and perhaps rethink their plans.
“The risk is not huge but it's one to be aware of, and older people should make sure they have their flu jabs.”
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Common symptoms from the infection are a sore throat, scarlet fever or skin rash.
However, the infection is starting to spread rampantly among UK communities, with 169 children under 15 contracting invasive Strep A.
There have been 13 confirmed deaths in England, one in Northern Ireland and one in Wales, just this winter.
Yesterday a pupil in Hove, East Sussex, also died of a suspected invasive Strep A infection, bringing the total to 16.
The alarming number has parents worried, and as a result GP practices and some pharmacies are becoming inundated and are running out of antibiotics.
The shortage of supply has prompted senior doctors to issue a reassurance that it is ‘common and treatable’.
The heads of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal
College of Emergency Medicine and Royal College of General Practitioners said in a joint statement: "We’d like to reassure parents and carers that this specific infection is common and treatable.
"The UKHSA are monitoring the situation closely and healthcare
professionals are on high alert."
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