13 die from rare kissing bacterial infection

Thirteen people have been reported dead in a ‘very serious’ outbreak of an invasive Group A streptococcus in Essex, officials say.

Health bosses previously reported 12 deaths due to the spread of the rare bacterial infection, but an additional case has been added after Public Health England reviewed how cases are defined.

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

There have been 34 reported cases of the disease and 13 patients have died, the NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group said today.

In a statement, it 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 that 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 case was previously not included in the iGAS count.’ Health chiefs said the outbreak started in Braintree and has since spread to the Chelmsford and Maldon areas, but did not give a timeline for this.

Most of those affected in the outbreak are elderly people who were receiving treatment for wounds, with some in care homes but most in their own homes.

One case was identified in Basildon in 2018 and one case in Southend in February 2019 but there does not appear to be a direct link between the cases in south Essex and mid Essex, health bosses said.

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’.

An incident management team has been established and has put ‘control measures… in place to limit the spread of this infection’.

These include a programme of preventative antibiotics for community nursing staff in mid Essex, a deep clean of community nursing bases and swabs being taken from adult patients treated by the teams to check for the bacteria.






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