Five year-old girl becomes ninth child in UK to die from illness linked to Strep A infection

Seven children in England and one child in Wales have also died as a result of an illness associated with the Strep A infection.

A five year-old child has died from an illness linked to the Strep A infection. The child became severely ill last week and was treated in hospital however despite the best efforts of medical experts, the child passed away on Monday.

The child, a pupil at Black Mountain Primary School in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is the ninth child to have died from an illness linked with Strep A in the United Kingdom. The child was treated in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

The school published a statement on the death of the five year-old girl on its Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon.

“Sadly, the governors, staff and students of Black Mountain Primary School have been informed of the untimely passing of one of our P2 pupils, Stella-Lily McCorkindale. This is a tragic loss to the Black Mountain Primary School family and our school community, and the thoughts of the entire school are with Stella-Lily’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time,” said the school.

The school described five year-old Stella Lily as a “talented little girl” and “very popular”.

“Stella-Lily was a very bright and talented little girl and very popular with both staff and children and will be greatly missed by everyone at school. To assist in supporting our pupils and staff at this sad time, additional trained staff from the Education Authority Critical Incident Response Team have been engaged and will be providing support to the school.

“We recognise that this news may cause worry amongst our school community and we want to reassure parents that we continue to work closely with the Public Health Agency (PHA) at this time.”

What to do if you suspect your child has scarlet fever

Scarlet fever mainly affects children under 10, but people of any age can get it. In the early stages, symptoms include 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 have a sandpapery feel.

Newhill Football Club posted a photo of Stella-Lily McCorkindale on their Facebook site. The club said it was "deeply saddened" to hear of her passing and that she was part of its first junior girls team to come from its Skill School. "We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the McCorkindale family at this time," it added.

The PHA is asking parents to contact their GP if they suspect their child has scarlet fever, because early treatment with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection.

Dr Joanne McClean, Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “Scarlet fever usually clears up after about a week, but anyone who thinks they or a child may have it should contact a GP for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. To limit the spread of scarlet fever it is also important to practise good hygiene by washing hands with warm water and soap, not sharing drinking glasses or utensils, and covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. People should also stay away from nursery, school or work for 24 hours after taking the first dose of antibiotics.”

Don’t put off seeking help if your child continues to get worse

There can be a range of causes of sore throats, colds and coughs. These should resolve without medical intervention. However, children can on occasion develop an infection and that can make them more unwell.

The PHA is also urging parents to seek help if their child is very unwell or seems to be getting worse – even if they have started treatment. Parents should contact their GP if they feel:

  • their child is getting worse;
  • their child is feeding or eating much less than normal;
  • their child has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration;
  • their baby is under three months and has a temperature of 38°C, or is older than three months and has a temperature of 39°C or higher;
  • their baby feels hotter than usual when they touch their back or chest, or feels sweaty;
  • their child is very tired or irritable.

Call 999 or go to the Emergency Department if:

  • your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs;
  • there are pauses when your child breathes;
  • your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue;
  • your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake.

Dr McClean continued: “The PHA has issued an urgent message to all primary and secondary care healthcare providers alerting them to increases in group A streptococcal infection. Acting quickly if you suspect anyone has this infection could make a difference to the outcomes.”

For further information on scarlet fever, visit www.pha.site/ScarletFever

Rises in recent cases of invasive group A streptococcus across the UK may be due in part to more social mixing, which may also result in other illnesses circulating at the same time. The PHA would therefore urge everyone eligible for the free flu vaccine to get it at the earliest opportunity. In particular we would urge parents of all pre-school children aged two years and over and those aged six months to two years who are in risk groups to avail of the free flu vaccine.

Find out who is eligible for the winter vaccines and where to get vaccinated see www.nidirect.gov.uk/wintervaccines