UK's Strep A death toll jumps to 37

Strep A has already killed MORE kids this year than it did during last bad surge – as UK’s death toll jumps to 37

  • Twenty-nine under-18s have died of the Strep A bug in England since September
  • Five have been recorded in Wales, two in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland
  • More British children have died this winter than during the whole last bad season

More British children have died of Strep A already this winter than they did during the entirety of the last bad season. 

Twenty-nine under-18s have died of the usually-harmless bug in England since the season kicked off in September. 

For comparison, 27 youngsters died from the bacterial infection during the 2017/18 season, which health chiefs consider to be the last ‘bad’ year.

Five Strep A deaths have been recorded in Wales this winter, two in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland. 

What is Strep A?

Group A Streptococcus (Group A Strep or Strep A) bacteria can cause many different infections.

The bacteria are commonly found in the throat and on the skin, and some people have no symptoms.

Infections caused by Strep A range from minor illnesses to serious and deadly diseases.

They include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.

While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bacteria cause an illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.


Victims include Stella-Lilly McCorkindale, a five-year-old girl from Northern Ireland, Hannah Roap, a ‘bubbly’ seven-year-old from Wales, and Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, a four-year-old boy from Buckinghamshire.

Strep A bacteria can cause a myriad of infections, including impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat. The vast majority of cases are mild. 

In extremely rare cases, however, the bacteria can penetrate the blood and trigger a life-threatening complication called invasive Group A Strep (iGAS). 

Strep A outbreaks tend start to gather speed in the New Year, before peaking in the spring. But cases took off earlier than usual this year. 

The UKHSA said there is usually a surge in iGAS cases every three to four years but social distancing during the Covid pandemic ‘may have interrupted this cycle and explain the current increase’.

High rates of other respiratory viruses — including flu, RSV and norovirus — may be putting children at higher risk of co-infections with Strep A, leaving them more susceptible to severe illness, the UKHSA suggested.

Dr Obaghe Edeghere, UKHSA incident director, said: ‘As children return to school, scarlet fever and strep throat continue to circulate at high levels.

‘It is important we all wash our hands regularly and thoroughly and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue. 

‘This will help stop germs spreading between children and to other vulnerable groups and will help prevent the spread of other winter illnesses that are currently circulating at high levels, including flu and Covid.

‘It’s not too late to take up the free flu and Covid vaccines if you’re eligible – we know that Group A Strep infections can be more serious when combined with another infection like flu.’

Symptoms of a Strep A infection can include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting.

The infection can easily be treated with antibiotics if it is caught early, which also limits the spread and reduces the risk of complications. 

Phenoxymethylpenicillin, amoxicillin and clarithromycin are three antibiotics used to treat the bacterial infection.

Health chiefs have advised doctors to have a ‘low threshold’ for prescribing these to youngsters who have suspected Strep A. 

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From the ‘bubbly’ seven-year-old whose father desperately tried CPR to save her, to the four-year-old who loved exploring: The victims of Strep A so far

Muhammad Ibrahim Ali

The four-year-old boy attended Oakridge School and Nursery in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

He died at home from a cardiac arrest in mid-November after contracting a Strep A infection.

He was prescribed antibiotics.

His mother Shabana Kousar told the Bucks Free Press: ‘The loss is great and nothing will replace that. 

‘He was very helpful around the house and quite adventurous, he loved exploring and enjoyed the forest school, his best day was a Monday and said how Monday was the best day of the week.

Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, who attended Oakridge School and Nursery in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, died after contracting the bacterial infection

Hannah Roap 

The ‘bubbly’ and ‘beautiful’ seven-year-old is the only child to have died from Strep A in Wales so far.

Her devastated parents told how their ‘hearts had broken into a million pieces’. 

The first signs of the infection were mild. Hannah’s father Abul took his daughter to the GP after a cough got worse overnight. 

She was prescribed steroids and sent home, but she died less than 12 hours later. 

Mr Roap recalled how he desperately tried to resuscitate his child: ‘She stopped breathing at 8pm but we were not immediately aware because she was sleeping.

‘I did CPR, I tried to revive her but it didn’t work. Paramedics arrived and continued the CPR but it was too late.’   

Mr Roap said the family was ‘utterly devastated’ and awaiting answers from the hospital.

The family believe she might have lived if she was initially given antibiotics. 

Hanna Roap, who attended Victoria Primary School in Penarth, Wales, died after contracting Strep A last month. Her family say they have been ‘traumatised’ by her death

Stella-Lily McCorkindale

Five-year-old Stella-Lily McCokindale died following a Strep A infection, the first death from the infection in Northern Ireland. 

She died on December 5 at Royal Belfast Hospital.

In a tribute on social media, her father Robert said the pair had ‘loved every minute’ of being together as they went on scooter and bike rides.

‘If prayers, thoughts, feelings and love could have worked she would have walked out of that hospital holding her daddy’s hand,’ he said.  

Stella-Lily attended Black Mountain Primary School, which said she was ‘a bright and talented little girl’ and described her death as a ‘tragic loss’. 

Five-year-old Stella-Lily McCokindale who attended Black Mountain Primary School in Belfast died in early December after contracting Strep A

Jax Albert Jefferys

A five-year-old boy who died of Strep A was misdiagnosed as having flu, his family has said.

Jax Albert Jefferys, from Waterlooville, Hampshire, died on December 1.

His mother Charlene told how she had sought medical advice three times during the four days leading up to Jax’s death and was told he was suffering from influenza A. She described Jax as a ‘cheeky little chappy’. 

Later tests revealed he actually had Strep A.

Jax Albert Jefferys, a five-year-old from Waterlooville, Hampshire, died on , December 1, from Strep A

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