Public Health Scotland (PHS) said it was aware of 17 deaths amongst invasive group A streptococcal infections (iGAS) cases between October 3 and January 15 – an increase of four since the previous report.
Three of these deaths were in children under ten, an increase of one since last week’s report. PHS said this compared to between zero and 15 deaths reported during the same time period of previous years.
Infections caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.
The vast majority of infections are relatively mild, but the bacteria can cause iGAS, a life-threatening infection in which the bacteria has invaded parts of the body such as the blood, deep muscle or lungs. At least 30 children under 18 have now died with iGas across the UK so far this season, which runs from September 19.
PHS said there was an earlier increase in GAS and iGAS cases this season than in previous seasons in Scotland.
Total cases reported to date are higher than those observed at the peaks seen in previous pre-Covid-19 pandemic years.
In the most recent week ending January 15, there have been 532 laboratory reports of GAS, a reduction from 600 the previous week.
The agency said that although increases in GAS were reported in recent weeks in Scotland, iGAS infection levels for 2022/23 have been “generally stable and similar to previous years”.
In the week to January 15, there were 22 iGAS cases reported across all age groups, the same as the previous week. It said this remains higher than what was reported during peaks observed in previous years, when between 12 and 18 cases per week were recorded.
The latest death was recorded as a union leader said talks with the Scottish Government present a “huge opportunity” for a significant pay rise for staff. The Government has been locked in negotiations with unions in recent months in the hopes of averting industrial action.
Last week, the GMB union, which represents staff in the NHS and Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), along with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) announced they would be suspending announcements of strike action after talks with ministers.
An agreement was reached to expedite negotiations for a pay deal for next year, with the aim being for talks to have finished by the end of next month, as well as to review the Agenda for Change framework and committing to pass on any consequentials sent to Scotland as a result of an NHS England pay deal.
Ahead of talks today, GMB Scotland organiser Keir Greenaway said: “This is a huge opportunity for the Government to work with us and bring forward transformative proposals for the value of NHS staff through a significant pay increase for 2023/24. For GMB, that means bettering the terms of the existing offer for 2022-23.
“This is doable within the Government’s budget, and if we can achieve this then NHS Scotland stands a far better chance of recruiting and retaining the people needed to build a recovery of our broken health service.”