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Streptococcal fatalities 'rising'

Group A Streptococcal disease (GAS) has led to an increasing number of deaths among women during pregnancy and childbirth in the UK over the last seven years, a new report shows.

The disease can develop into the so-called “flesh-eating” bug, but the overall numbers are low.

Women should wash their hands regularly to ensure they do everything they can to stop it from spreading and should remain vigilant, experts have warned.

In many people Group A streptococcus does not cause any symptoms, and can be commonly found on the skin and inside the throat.

The most common type of GAS infections are a sore throat (sometimes called strep throat) and minor skin infections such as impetigo (a skin condition often carried by children).

GAS presents a more serious problem if the bacteria penetrates further into the body, such as into the blood or into a deeper layer of skin.

Pregnant women and those who have just delivered are particularly at risk from this more serious type.

Experts at the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE) published a new report, Saving Mothers’ Lives, warning health workers to be alert to signs of GAS.

They said midwives working in the community may be the first to notice women who are in trouble.

In a three-year study period from 2006 to 2008, 29 women in total died as a direct result of infections. This is up on the 21 from 2003 to 2005 and 13 from 2000 to 2002.

Of the 29 women in the most recent study, 13 died from GAS, up from eight and three in the previous reports.

  • The Eighth Report of the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal, Saving Mothers’ Lives: Reviewing maternal deaths to make motherhood safer: 2006-2008.

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