A YOUNG child has died and another is in hospital following a rare bacterial outbreak affecting children at a primary school.
The girl who died is thought to have been six years old and was in Year 1 at the Ashford Church of England Primary School in Ashford, Surrey.
She is believed to have succumbed to the invasive Group A streptococcal (iGAS) infection on Tuesday.
The bacteria – also known as Strep Throat – usually causes a sore throat or skin rash and is passed by physical contact or through droplets from sneezing or coughing.
In very rare cases, the infection can become invasive and enter parts of the body where bacteria aren’t normally found, which can be serious.
The second pupil, believed to be in the same year group, was rushed to hospital with symptoms of the same disease but is understood to be showing positive signs of making a recovery.
A third child, from the same area of Ashford is also reportedly suffering from Scarlet Feverwhich is often caused by Strep Throat.
All parents of pupils at the primary school have been sent letters advising of the Year 1 pupil’s death and by another nearby school, concerned the pupils from the schools may have been mixing.
A spokesperson for the UK Health Security Agency confirmed the death of one child and another was in hospital.
They said: “Specialists are arranging for antibiotics to be offered to pupils and staff at a Surrey school as a precautionary measure, following two cases of invasive Group A streptococcal infection (iGAS).
“Sadly, one pupil from Ashford Church of England Primary School has died and another is in hospital, but showing positive signs of recovery.”
Dr Claire Winslade, health protection consultant at UKHSA South East, said: “We are extremely saddened to hear about the death of a pupil at Ashford Church of England School, and our thoughts are with their family, friends and the school community.
“As a precautionary measure, we have recommended antibiotics to pupils and staff in the same year groups as the individuals affected.
“We have provided advice to the school to help prevent further cases and will continue to monitor the situation.
“Information has been shared with parents about the signs and symptoms of iGAS, which include high fever with severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhea.
“Anyone with these symptoms should call NHS111 immediately.
“Infection with Group A Streptococcus bacterium usually causes a sore throat or skin rash and is passed by physical contact or through droplets from sneezing or coughing.
“In very rare cases, the infection can become invasive and enter parts of the body where bacteria aren’t normally found, which can be serious.”
Ruth Hutchinson, Director of Public Health, Surrey County Council said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of a pupil at Ashford Church of England School and we offer our sincere condolences to their family, friends and the whole school community, who are in our thoughts.
“Our school relations team, available 24/7, has provided the school with guidance during this tragic time and our public health team are working closely with UKHSA, school leaders and health partners to take appropriate health protection measures and ensure children, parents and carers at the school are appropriately supported.
“A number of other illnesses typically circulate at this time of year and parents, school and nursery staff are advised to be aware of the symptoms.”
Dr. Winslade added: “We are also seeing cases of scarlet fever, RSV and other viral infections in the community, which are all fairly common among children.
“Please ensure that children stay off school if they’re unwell to help minimize the spread of infections and check that they are up to date with their routine vaccinations.
“Always contact your GP for medical advice if you are concerned.”
In a letter to parents of pupils at a school near Ashford CoE Primary, the headteacher confirmed that staff were aware of the death of the Year 1 pupil from Group A streptococcal (IGAS) and that another child at the school had developed symptoms.
In the letter emailed to parents, the school said that staff were aware that the news of the child’s death would cause anxiety in the community and said that staff were seeking advice from Public Health England on any actions they should take and any advice they should give to parents.
Parents were asked to contact the school office if they saw their children developing symptoms of the disease and to avoid having discussions on the What’s App mobile phone platform “as this is not the forum at this time.”