Five children are currently in hospital in Andalucía with invasive group A streptococcal disease (known as Strep A) and one of them is in intensive care. The youngsters, who range in age from one month to 14 years, are being treated with antibiotics.
On 2 December the UK published a report showing a notable early increase in infections due to Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria (group A Streptococcus) compared with other years. As a result of this report, the Andalusian health authorities have declared Strep A to be an event of interest to public health, although so far it has not been classified as a notifiable disease.
The authorities in the region have stressed that there is no cause for alarm because this illness occurs regularly in Andalucía and elsewhere in Spain. It is caused by a known bacteria, is quickly diagnosed and treated with antibiotics and is usually a mild illness.
However, to prevent over-infections or co-infections with other respiratory illnesses, the health authorities do recommend that children aged between six months and four years 11 months have the flu vaccine, something which has been introduced for the first time this year. The vaccine is recommended by the World Health Organization and the Spanish Society of Pediatric Diseases.
There is concern over the ease with which the flu virus can be spread by children to the rest of the population, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Children are the age group with the highest incidence of flu, because they have had less contact with the virus.
The children’s flu vaccine is particularly relevant this winter after two years in which the general population has used social distancing and individual protection measures, especially the use of face masks, experts say.