Strep A: Dr Sara Kayat warns about home-testing kits
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Strep A home-testing kits have sold out online as the UK’s death toll rose to 16. The latest death involved a secondary school pupil at Hove Park School, East Sussex. This comes as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said there is no evidence of a new strain and that the rise in cases is most likely caused by high amounts of circulating bacteria and increased social mixing.
Worried parents are turning to Strep A home-testing kits to diagnose their children’s rashes and sore throats.
The panic-buying follows a rise in invasive Group A strep cases this year, particularly in children under 10.
Strep A illness is caused by strains of streptococcus pyogenes bacterium that normally triggers mild infection with symptoms such as sore throats or skin infections.
However, the bacterial culprit can in rare cases infect lungs and the bloodstream, spurring on serious and life-threatening problems.
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Following rise in deaths and infections from Strep A, parents have now turned to tests that involve a long cotton swab that is lightly passed over the back of the throat. Solutions and a strip test are then used to display results.
These tests are currently being sold online for more than £100 but some retailers have reported selling out after demand soared.
While home-testing kits might seem like a tempting option for diagnosing your child, Dr Sara Kayat is sceptical about the kits.
Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, on Monday, December 12, she said: “The issue here is that lots of parents are panicking, understandably… people are dying.
“You understand why a parent would go to any lengths to try to make sure their child is okay.
“However, these tests have not been deemed as being particularly reliable. The results have been not as accurate as we would have liked.
“So, I don’t think it’s a good idea to be purchasing these, especially, sometimes they are being sold for £100 a test.
“That’s just taking advantage of people’s anxieties.”
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The Strep A home-testing kits are not sold through the NHS in England because the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has said their accuracy is uncertain and likely to be “highly variable”.
Scotland has not approved them either but people can buy them over the counter for £7.50 in Wales.
“We’re not advising using those [tests] for the time being,” Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said on Friday.
“It is a clinical diagnosis. It is not too difficult to make. So long as the parent watches their child and brings their child in, then we are more than happy to see them.”
What are main symptoms of Strep A?
The bacterial infection is characterised by tell-tale signs like sore throat and fever.
According to Dr Kayat, parents should be looking out for symptoms, including:
- Sore throat
- High fever
- Sandpaper-feeling rash on the body
- Red strawberry tongue
- Bright red cheeks
- Muscle aches.
She added: “If you’re worried, then we want you to speak to your GP. GPs have been told to have a low threshold for prescribing antibiotics for these conditions.”
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