A FOURTEENTH person has died following a “serious outbreak” of a killer bug that is spread through kissing and touching.
And at least 33 more people have been infected by the highly contagious strain of invasive Group A streptococcus.
Officials have warned more fatalities are likely following the outbreak in Essex – but they said there is little risk to those outside the region or to the wider public.
The average age of those affected was 87, and all suffered from chronic wounds.
The first case was identified in February in Braintree and has since spread to the Chelmsford and Maldon.
The latest death was among a total of 37 people infected across Essex with Strep A.
Of those 37 people, 33 have been confirmed to be as part of this outbreak and four are probable cases.
The Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are investigating the outbreak and said the outbreak of the invasive Group A streptococcal (iGAS) began in Braintree, Essex.
‘Thoughts with the families’
The CCG said in a statement: “Following regular communications with the patients and their families affected by this outbreak, we have been informed that a patient in mid Essex who had previously been treated for iGAS earlier in the year has sadly died.
“Our thoughts are with their family.
“We are reporting this retrospectively having completed investigations to conclude that their death is linked to this outbreak.
“To protect patient confidentiality we are unable to confirm when they had iGAS or when they passed away.
“This means that of the 37 people affected by iGAS, 33 are confirmed as part of this outbreak and four are probable cases.
“Fourteen people have sadly died.”
Elderly members of the community
The outbreak was first made public in June this year and have been found in elderly members of the community, the majority of which had been receiving medical attention for wounds.
Additional cases have been found around Chelmsford and Maldon in Essex.
Group A strep can cause infections which range from minor illnesses to very serious and deadly diseases.
Diseases caused by Strep A bacteria
GROUP strep A bacteria can cause a number of different diseases.
- strep throat
- scarlet fever
- necrotising fasciitis
- rheumatic fever
People can easily spread group A strep to other people, through touching, sneezing and kissing.
Good hygiene, such as washing your hands thoroughly, is the best way to protect against infection.
The CCG has discovered that of the two new cases one was diagnosed in Basildon, Essex in 2018 and in February 2019 in Southend, in Essex.
The bacteria can be found in the throat and on the skin – which allow easy spread between people through sneezing, kissing and touching.
The local NHS board warns “sometimes life-threatening Group A streptococcus 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”.
It said “most of the patients affected are elderly and had been receiving care for chronic wounds, in the community, either in their own homes and some in care homes”.
Health bosses have now implemented control measures to stop any further spread.
Vulnerable patients are being swabbed for potential infection and some care workers are being given prophylactic antibiotics.