Cyprus goes on Strep A alert

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Due to recent child deaths in the UK and Europe from Streptococcus type A infections, health authorities have decided to arm paediatricians with strep tests.

The Health Ministry, following a meeting with the Cyprus Paediatric Society, announced that it would be taking steps to acquire strep tests for paediatricians to offer free of charge.

Group A strep bacteria can cause many infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases, but serious complications and deaths are rare.

Despite the rarity of deaths, the UK has reported 16 deaths of children under the age of 15 since September.

According to UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) data, there were 2.3 cases of invasive disease per 100,000 children aged one to four this year in England, compared with an average of 0.5 in the pre-pandemic seasons (2017 to 2019).

There have also been 1.1 cases per 100,000 children aged five to nine, compared with the pre-pandemic average of 0.3 (2017 to 2019).

Authorities in Cyprus decided that the State Health Organisation (OKYPY) would send out information on the virus to paediatricians.

Later, the ministry will issue paediatricians sets of strep tests.

It will compile a weekly report on cases that may appear.

Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is a common bacterium that many people carry in their throats and skin without ever exhibiting symptoms of infection (healthy carriers).

However, this particular pathogenic bacterium can, in some cases, cause mild or even more serious infections such as tonsillitis, pharyngitis, scarlet fever and infectious wax.

Serious infections associated with strep are caused by invasive group A strep (iGAS).

These infections are caused when bacteria are carried to parts of the body where they are not normally detected, such as the lungs or elsewhere, through the bloodstream.

Strep infection is most common in children ages 5 to 15, although it can occur in younger children and adults.

The Health Ministry urged the public to contact a doctor if their child exhibits symptoms which do not improve.

These symptoms include loss of appetite, signs of dehydration, babies under three months old running a temperature of 38℃ and babies older than three months with a temperature of 39℃ or higher.

The ministry advised that proper hand hygiene and strict adherence to personal protection measures are important to stop the spread.

People over 65, those with HIV, use steroids or other drugs or suffer from diabetes, heart disease, or cancer run a higher risk of catching the infection than the general population.

Strep A can be spread through coughs, sneezes, and skin-to-skin contact.

Cyprus has not reported a Strep A case in recent months.