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The mother of a baby who died after contracting strep A has urged parents to “trust their instincts” as the current UK outbreak claims its ninth life.
Melissa Mead’s one-year-old son William died after weeks of chronic cough and anxiety dismissed by doctors.
He urged parents to seek advice if something doesn’t seem right – such as a high temperature combined with other symptoms – as strep A cases rise in the UK.
William Mead, pictured with his mother Melissa, died of sepsis aged one
The bacteria usually cause a mild infection, including a sore throat or scarlet fever, which can be treated with antibiotics.
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However, in rare cases, it can lead to a potentially fatal invasive disease. The incidence of this deadly infection has increased this year.
At least nine children have died in the UK after contracting the infection in recent weeks, including seven-year-old Hannah Rope from Wales, four-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Ali from Buckinghamshire and Belfast primary school student Stella-Lily McCorkindle.
Ms Mead told The Independent that the reports of the children’s deaths felt “close to home”, with William’s birthday and the anniversary of his death falling at this time of year.
Ms Mead told parents to ‘trust their instincts’ about a strep A infection
The 37-year-old, from Cornwall, said: “I feel like my heart just rips in two for these other families going through what we’re going through.”
William died in 2014 from sepsis, following a strep A infection that turned into invasive group strep A disease.
Miss Mead said her illness began with a cough that had lasted for several weeks – which once saw her cough so much she was sick. His mother also noticed that he had lost some weight. But he said doctors have assured the family there is nothing to worry about.
One night, William wakes up crying and groggy, which Mrs. Mead puts down to the then-one-year-old’s teeth.
The next morning, she got a phone call from her nursery saying she was really tired, refused food and had a high temperature. He was uncharacteristically “belligerent” when she took him to a doctor.
The family was sent home and told it was probably a viral infection, Ms Mead said. Although William’s temperature has started to drop, he has started to deteriorate in other ways, his mother said. “He refused milk, refused water, he was sick. She didn’t wet her nappy.”
She said she was “pale” and “cold” and at this stage didn’t want to put a blanket over her just yet.
Although his temperature was low, it was not a good sign. “He was suffering from circulatory failure as his body was fighting an infection and was now shutting down,” Miss Mead said.
“Long story short, I checked on him at night and he was still sleeping and snoring. And I went to check on him in the morning because he didn’t wake up and he died,” she said.
When William’s condition worsened at home she called both 111 and the local hospital. A report later found that 16 chances to save William’s life were missed – including GPs and 111.
Miss Mead said William had a bacterial cough which turned into pneumonia. Strep A bacteria later develop into invasive Strep A disease, which causes sepsis.
He urged parents to “have faith [their] Instinct when thinking about strep. “You know your child. I would say if you think something isn’t right, get counseling and get support.”
William died in 2014 but the current wave of infant deaths has brought back painful memories for his mother
He added: “If your child has a high temperature, you treat the high temperature. But if your child has other symptoms along with the high temperature, seek advice and get help.
“And if you don’t feel like you’re getting the right advice or the right support, step back because you know your child.”
The 37-year-old sepsis campaigner says it’s also important for parents to understand what symptoms they should look out for.
“We need to emphasize the speed at which aggressive strep A takes hold,” he said. It was 36 hours from William’s first symptoms — a really high temperature — to his death, she said.
“If they have these symptoms, get help now. It’s an important message, but it’s giving the signs so parents know what to do.”
Early signs and symptoms of invasive group strep A disease include high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one part of the body, redness at the wound site, and vomiting or diarrhea.
Symptoms of sepsis include pale or mottled skin, lethargy, low urine output, persistent vomiting, not drinking, and high temperature.