An investigation is being carried out into the death of a child in Ireland to see if it is linked to the ‘Strep A’ bacterial infection.
Dr Eamonn O’Moore, director for National Health Protection at the HSE and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), confirmed that Strep A could be linked to the four-year-old child’s death.
“As far as we understand it at this time, we have been receiving reports of a death in a four-year-old, and as far as we understand it among a number of other conditions that are being considered as contributory factors, there may be a consideration of that invasive Group A streptococcal infection.”
The child who died was from the north east of the country, which includes the north Dublin area.
“This is still being considered actively, so as I speak to you we haven’t confirmed that, it is subject to further laboratory investigation,” he told RTÉ’s News at One.
“But it is reasonable to say it is among the differential diagnoses at this time,” he said.
It comes after eight children in Great Britain died with a form of Strep A.
A five-year-old child from a Belfast primary school, where a severe case of Strep A was reported last week, has died it was confirmed on Tuesday.
The HPSC has been notified of 55 Strep A cases in Ireland so far this year, with a small increase in the reported cases since the beginning of October.
Fourteen of these cases were in children aged under 10 years old, compared to 22 cases in children aged under 10 for the same period in 2019.
Although Group A Streptococcal infections including scarlet fever are common, the more serious invasive Group A Streptococcal infections – also known as “iGAS” – are rare.
The HSE said that during the pandemic, normal social mixing patterns were interrupted which led to changes in how diseases such as Strep A presented.
Chief medical officer Breda Smyth said: “I know parents are concerned by reports of Strep A cases, but the levels we’re seeing are lower than pre-pandemic levels.
“Most Strep A illnesses in children are mild. If you feel your child is seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgment and seek medical attention.”
She said that Strep A infections are treatable with antibiotics and encouraged people to wash their hands and practice good respiratory etiquette to prevent transmission.
When asked about the case, Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris said he was sure sure that parents are “very concerned” and sympathised with the families affected.
“I’ve no doubt that the Minister for Health (Stephen Donnelly), the Department of Health, and our health and surveillance structures in this country will be monitoring the situation very closely and probably linking with their colleagues in the north as well,” he said.
“I do know from my time in the Department of Health that there’s really well established linkages between the HSE and the Northern Ireland health services, very good exchange of information, very good interpersonal relationships as well.
“I have no doubt people will be working very, very closely and I think we can be proud in this country that our health service does a very good job in terms of giving public health information and surveying situations as they happen and I’ve no doubt as soon as they have more information that they will update the public and particularly parents and schools.”