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Three-year-old Strep A victim waited in A&E for two hours

Group A Streptococcus (orange) during phagocytic interaction with a human neutrophil
Group A Streptococcus (orange) during phagocytic interaction with a human neutrophil

GPs have spoken of their concerns at missing signs of Strep A as it emerged a three-year-old NHS consultant’s son who became the latest victim of the infection had waited two hours in A&E.

Ayyub’s father, a consultant haematologist, has now urged parents to “insist their child is seen immediately” if they have symptoms and are “unwell with breathing problems”.

At the same time a four-year-old girl has been left fighting for her life on a ventilator with the infection.

Camila Rose Burns, who is in intensive care at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, was described by medics as “the poorliest girl in the whole of England”.

Her father Dean Burns said her condition rapidly worsened over last weekend and she went from dancing on Friday night with her friends to needing emergency care on Monday.

Camila Rose Burns is fighting a Strep A infection in intensive care at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
Camila Rose Burns is fighting a Strep A infection in intensive care at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

“They put her to sleep and she’s been on a ventilator ever since, keeping her alive. It’s the worst thing that can ever happen to anybody,” he said.

Six children have now died from a Strep A infection in the past month, with some parents planning to keep their children away from school over fears about infections in class following the death of Ayyub.

His father, who asked to remain anonymous but gave permission for his son to be named, told The Telegraph: “He was unwell for three days with high fevers. We’ve taken him to hospital with fevers before and it’s been due to viral infections, so we were assuming this time that it was a viral infection.

“After three days of ongoing fevers and it not resolving I was getting more worried and then took him to hospital on the Wednesday (Nov 23).”

He passed away 10 hours after.

Ayyub, who attended St John’s Primary School and Nursery in Ealing, was not prescribed antibiotics at any point.

His father said that “he deteriorated very quickly in the hospital and initially the doctors didn’t realise how unwell he was”.

“I had a two-hour wait before he was seen but once the nurse saw him they took him straight away into the treatment area. It’s very hard to know if [getting seen earlier] would have changed the outcome,” he said, but every minute waiting to be seen “all adds up”.

‘Make enough of a fuss so your child is seen’

The consultant, who described his son as a “very loving” little boy, added: “If anyone has a young child at this age and they have a high temperature or high fevers which are not improving then they must take them to the GP or hospital and not assume that it’s one of those childhood viral infections, which is what we suspected this was.”

He said that he may have brought Ayyub to the hospital sooner had he known about the Strep A infection going around.

“If any parent has a child with these symptoms then they must go to the GP and get antibiotics. Or if the child is unwell with breathing problems then they must take the child immediately to A&E, and when they are there then insist that the child is seen immediately and not to wait.

“Just make enough of a fuss to make sure your child is seen immediately by the medical team and given the treatment they require.”

GPs ‘terrified’ of missing signs of infection

Family doctors have admitted they are “terrified” of missing the tell-tale signs of the infection.

Stephanie de Giorgio, a GP at an urgent treatment centre in Kent, told The Telegraph: “I won’t lie, I am terrified of missing this. Some guidance would be very very welcome.

“GPs, and those working in Urgent Care and Emergency care are seeing huge numbers of children with viral upper respiratory infections at the moment. Luckily most of these children do not become seriously unwell.

“The current invasive Strep A outbreak is scary for those trying to work out which children are likely to become very unwell, as sometimes, in the early stages of the illness, the symptoms are quite similar and we do not have access to any quick testing to find out if Strep A is present.”

Dr Nighat Arif, a GP in Buckinghamshire, questioned whether they would be able to cope with an influx of suspected cases. She said on Twitter: “With rapid testing - would we have the time to do that with the volume of children we are seeing in general practice with sore throats? And can’t prescribe antibiotics for every sore throat we see.”

Other doctors have admitted being “more liberal” with prescribing antibiotics because of the fears of missing signs of Strep A.

Parents consider keeping children out of school

The death of Ayyub has prompted several parents to consider keeping their children away from school over fears about infections in class.

Simone, whose son is in Year 6 at St John’s, said she would not be sending him into school on Monday.

She told The Telegraph. “My son told me he’s sitting next to two students who are constantly coughing.”

Eloah Lima has decided to take her youngest child, aged three, out of Grange Primary School and Nursery in Ealing as several of his classmates are sick.

The 35-year-old mother of two said: “I was very worried when I heard the news. Parents are very confused about whether they should bring their kids to school or not.”

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has been concerned enough about possible widespread absences to write to parents at St John’s urging them to keep their children in school.

In a letter last week it stated: “Working together with local authority colleagues and senior staff within the school UKSHA have reviewed this situation and there is no reason for you to make any changes to the school routine or for children to be kept at home if they are well.”

Several parents have already kept their children away from another school, following the death from Strep A of a pupil at Ashford Church of England Primary School, in Surrey.

Parents demanded the school should be deep cleaned following the death on Nov 24. Surrey County Council, which confirmed there had been “a small drop in attendance” at Ashford Primary, said a deep clean was subsequently carried out “as a precautionary measure”.