The father of a four-year-old girl who is in critical care with strep A has said he is “praying for a miracle” and urged other parents to look out for symptoms.
The UK Health Security Agency has said cases of the most serious kind of infection, called invasive group A strep (iGAS), are unusually high for this time of year, and believe the increase in cases may be linked to more social mixing after the ending of Covid restrictions.
Dean Burns’s daughter, Camila Rose, has been fighting for her life on a ventilator at Liverpool’s Alder Hey children’s hospital since Monday.
He told Sky News he had been “living in an absolute nightmare” since his daughter was taken to hospital.
“She’s still nowhere near out of the woods, she’s really, really poorly,” he said. “When we got here Monday, they said she’s the poorliest girl in the whole of England. To go from dancing on Friday night with her friends, to a little bit under the weather on Saturday and then a bit more bad on Sunday … It’s heartbreaking.”
Burns, who lives in Bolton with his family, said there was a sickness bug going around Camila’s school, so they kept an eye on her over the weekend.
He explained that she had been complaining of chest pains. After one visit to the hospital last Saturday, where doctors prescribed an inhaler and said she could go home, her health deteriorated on Sunday, and they rushed her into A&E.
“She just completely changed, she was restless. We shouted some nurses down, and we had to leave the room, they put her to sleep, and she’s been on a ventilator ever since, keeping her alive,” he added.
“It’s the worst thing that can ever happen to anybody.”
Since then, Camila has been in the critical care unit.
Burns urged other parents to “look out for the signs” and to act quickly if they see their child is sick.
Symptoms include a sore throat, fever and minor skin infections. In most cases, people can be treated with antibiotics and make a full recovery. However, in rare cases strep A can become a serious illness, and anyone with high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea should seek urgent medical help.
Prof Beate Kampmann, an infectious diseases paediatrician, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It starts off with a high fever, very sore throat and very red tongue, which has this sort of papillae - eventually developing a rash which feels a bit like sandpaper.
“The rash starts in the elbows and behind the neck. It tends to then peel after about 10 days because the disease is caused by a toxin that is produced by this bacterium.”
She said it was sometimes hard to spot due to different skin tones, adding: “If in doubt, check it out.”
She said: “The good news is that group A strep is very, very treatable with penicillin.”
But she added: “If your child is deteriorating in any way, you feel that they’re not eating, drinking, being quite flat and lethargic you need to take them to the doctors and to get them checked out.”