TWELVE people have died following a “serious outbreak” of a killer bug.
And at least 20 more people have been infected by the deadly strain of invasive Group A streptococcus.
1 12 people have died during a ‘serious outbreak’ of a killer bug in Essex, experts have revealedCredit: Getty – Contributor
It normally causes sore throats or scarlet fever – but in vulnerable older Brits can trigger fatal blood poisoning.
Officials have warned more fatalities are likely following the outbreak in Essex.
But they said there is little risk to those outside the region or to the wider public.
The average age of those affected was 87, and all suffered from chronic wounds.
The first case was identified in February in Braintree and has since spread to the Chelmsford and Maldon.’Thoughts with the families’
Dr Jorg Hoffmann, Deputy Director Health Protection for Public Health England East of England, said: “Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have become ill or who have died.
“All those affected are in vulnerable groups, which puts them at higher risk for what is normally a rarer form of Group A Streptococcal infection.
“I would like to emphasise that the risk of contracting iGAS is very low for healthy people and treatment with antibiotics is very effective, if started early enough.”
There were more than 2,800 cases of the bug in 2018.
Bug spreads easily through kissing and touching
The bacteria can be found in the throat and on the skin – which allow easy spread between people through sneezing, kissing and touching.
The local NHS board warns “sometimes life-threatening Group A streptococcus 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”.
It said “most of the patients affected are elderly and had been receiving care for chronic wounds, in the community, either in their own homes and some in care homes”.
Health bosses have now implemented control measures to stop any further spread.
Vulnerable patients are being swabbed for potential infection and some care workers are being given prophylactic antibiotics.
BUG CAN CAUSE NASTY DISEASESGROUP strep A bacteria can cause a number of different diseases.
People can easily spread group A strep to other people, through touching, sneezing and kissing.
Good hygiene, such as washing your hands thoroughly, is the best way to protect against infection.
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Rachel Hearn, director of nursing and quality, Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have died.
“The NHS in Essex is working closely with Public Health England to manage this local incident, and extra infection control measures have been put in place to prevent the infection spreading in the area.
“The risk of contracting iGAS is very low for the vast majority of people.”
She said investigations ate continuing into how the outbreak occurred.
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