Sixteen children have now died in Britain due to the Strep A bacteria, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
Other countries, such as France, have also recorded higher infection levels than usual at this time of the year, leading many unproven theories to circulate online as to why this is the case.
What is Strep A
This is not a new bacteria. Officially known as ‘Group A streptococcal infection’ it is transmitted by close contact with an infected individual, either through touch or coughs.
The vast majority of cases are asymptomatic or mild. However, it can cause scarlet fever, with symptoms including a soar throat, rash, and other flu-like markers.
Some cases are however serious. Strep A can cause what’s known as an 'invasive group A streptococcal infection' or iGAS. This can be deadly if left untreated for too long.
However, Strep A is treatable with antibiotics. While there have been reports of short supply in the UK, government ministers have insisted that there is no reason to panic.
Flu vaccines do not increase Strep A
On social media, especially TikTok, people have been making links between nasal flu vaccines given to children and the rise in Strep A infections this winter.
A paper has been circulating with an eye-catching title: ‘Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine Enhances Colonization of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus in Mice.’
However, the paper is not related to Strep A, as the two organisms mentioned are not Group A streptococcal bacteria.
There is no concrete evidence that shows that the flu vaccines cause a higher susceptibility to Strep A.
Some infectious disease experts have sought to explain the rise in Strep A and other infectious diseases due to increased social mixing and people spending more time indoors due to winter temperatures.
However, as always with healthcare issues, it’s important to consult trusted and verified sources of information. If you have symptoms of a Strep A infection, it’s also important to seek medical help quickly.