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Strep A in the UK, a mess of public health messaging
Parents still being told to send sick kids into school
Strep A is making headlines in the UK, sixteen children and forty seven adults have died since September with the majority of children dying in recent weeks.
Media seculation has been rife regarding why what is generally regarded as a common infection seems to be leading to more severe outcomes. UK Health Security Agency are currently investigating, a new strain of Strep has effectively been ruled out while the current thinking as explained by Adam Finn in numerous interviews is a combination of reduced immunity from lack of mixing and the impact of various viruses in circulation on the immune system.
Examples of “various viruses” given in the media are flu and RSV, outlets appear to be determined not to mention covid and the increasing body of evidence that covid impacts the immune system. This implication of covid infection has been consistently downplayed and denied by those working with government authorities, so while they avoid the C word, in a way this is a step in the right direction.
However, the idea that the Strep A cases are due to immunity debt is by far the most dominant narrative in the media with many stating this theory as though it is an established fact.
As expected those who advocated for the mass infection of children have leapt on the immunity debt explanation of Step A deaths as vindication for their opposition towards any efforts to cut transmission in schools.
For some people not all deaths are equal. Six dead children are cause for outrage when it can be weaponised to support an agenda, however this time last year a paper saying only six “healthy” children had died of covid was promoted as being reassuring to argue for unmitigated transmission in schools and to question the need for vaccination. It’s worth noting that when six or more children die in a month from covid its never made UK headline news.
The paper from those working with the UKHSA was during the first year of the pandemic with two lockdowns, a partial return of students and a summer when cases were at their lowest levels since the pandemic started and contact tracing was in use. The language used in the media that suggested we should only worry about the lives of healthy children is part of the underlying message of ablism that’s been a constant throughout the pandemic.
The paper received much criticism.
It’s also worth noting that the questions “but did they have comorbidities?” and “were they obese?” have not been asked in regards of the Strep A deaths as they always are by certain individuals whenever covid deaths are mentioned.
The difference of reporting between children dying from covid to children dying from Strep A demonstrates how even dead children have been weaponised.
Children are dying, paediatric ICU wards are under considerable pressure and many schools are seeing absence rates increasing once again after already facing considerable disruption from multiple Omicron variant waves this year. Primary schools generally seem to be struggling more than secondary schools, their vaccination level is much lower and the vaccine isn’t being offered to children who turned five in September 2022 and the ages below.
A number of epidemiologists and public health experts have called for action to protect children from a winter onslaught of pathogens. Primarily by ensuring children are up to date on thier vaccinations and that we finally address clean air in schools. Masks in certain conditions have also been suggested. There has also been calls for the DfE to end its 100% attendance agenda which pressures parents to send sick students into schools.
Unfortunately the UKs clinical lead on covid in children is increasingly sounding like an acolyte of the Great Barrington Declaration. Citing immunity debt as the main issue.
However a check of the UKHSA's weekly surveillance reports will show that other pathogens were in circulation last year.
There is an effort to rewrite history to claim that children were locked away for two years, but in the summer of 2020 newspapers had pictures of packed parks and beaches.
Primary schools never had masks or rapid flow testing for asymptomatic cases. Contact tracing ended in schools in July 2021.
Immunity debt provides the perfect excuse for doing nothing to prevent many infectious diseases.
UK paediatricians working with government have also hit out at the WHO for calling for classrooms to be made covid secure.
“Don't call children vectors of transmission” Has been a regular phrase of those opposing protecting children from infection as has “we shouldn’t vaccinate children to protect adults.”
Such criticism comes across as disingenuous when the same complaints weren’t made when the JCVI suggesteda benefit of not vaccinating children would be to provide booster infections for adults.
Or the suggestion that reducing transmission in children would prolong the pandemic.
Opposition to protective measures in schools has led to UKHSA considering prophylactic use of antibiotics in much the same way as they do with livestock on farms.
The UK is currently suffering from a shortage of antibiotics.
This story from a Scottish newspaper has been repeated in England.
The Health Secretary has said there isn’t a supply issue, its just a matter of getting supplies to the right places, of course this doesn’t help those parents spending hours searching for pharmacies that haven't already run out.
Spikes in pressure on paediatric units and demand for medicines isn’t just an issue in the UK.
With increased demand comes an increase in prices.
A friend of the family went to six pharmacies before they found one that could fill the prescription for their child who had been diagnosed with Strep A. This is a common story in the past week.
The current situation calls into question the DfEs focus on 100% attendance for students which is pressuring parents to send sick children into school.
CEV families who do not feel comfortable with sending their children into classrooms with multiple circulating pathogens are being hounded by authorities receiving fines and threats of further court action.
As the immunity debt argument comes under increasing criticism there now appears to be an effort to shift the narrative to an acceptance of deaths.
Adam Finn, UKHSA and JCVI member in a BBCRadio 5 live interview over the weekend said that Strep A deaths were still in low numbers and relatively similar to pre-pandemic.
UsForThem who a few days ago were outraged by six deaths are now opposing any measure to prevent transmission in schools, its lockdowns fault, nothing can be done, we just have to accept more deaths to maintain normality for the other children.
The Daily Mails in house GP began the week by blaming masks for a surge in referrals to mental health services.
She then complained about the lack of antibiotics.
But is now pointing out that 27 children died in 2017/18 without calling for measures, and is opposing suggestions to reduce transmission in schools. There has been no talk of closing schools for Strep A.
In the UK any measure to cut transmission is now considered unacceptable, and the public are once again being asked to consider a trade off of acceptable deaths for the sake of ideology.
Public messaging is a mess of conflicting messages causing confusion for worried parents.
How will the UK respond to children dying and paediatric wards filling up?
They will do nothing and use the deaths to argue for the benefits of infection. Those responsible for a policy of mass infection will certainly continue to ignore the growing evidence that covid can disrupt the immune system.