Baby Health

Melbourne Mum’s Strep A Warning as Deadly UK Strain Arrives in Australia

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One day 16-month-old Hadley was her happy, bubbly, smiley self. The next, she was intubated and fighting for her life in critical care.

Hadley’s health took a terrifying and incredibly quick turn for the worse after a common infection invaded her body. After nearly losing her life, she was diagnosed with Invasive Group Strep A – a potentially deadly bacterial infection that many of us are not aware of.

Strep A warning - Hadley story
Source: Tiny Hearts Education

Melbourne mum, Lyndal MacArthur shares her story with Tiny Hearts Education as a way to raise awareness of Invasive Group Strep A and better educate parents.

We had no idea that this bacteria which is normally responsible for tonsillitis or strep throat can result in such a life threatening condition,” Lyndal writes.

“We didn’t know that when Invasive Group A streptococcus strikes, you need to seek medication attention ASAP, especially with infants and children. They can go downhill fast within a <6 hour period.” 

Started with a fever

As Lyndal explains, Hadley’s first symptom was a fever that wouldn’t go down, even with Panodol. A trip to the GP in the morning confirmed Hadley had a red throat and Lyndal was told to monitor her.

Later that afternoon, Hadley become incredibly sick, incredibly fast. She stopped eating and drinking and started vomiting excessively. Lyndal contacted the Northern Hospital Virtual ED who took one look at Hadley and told Lundal to call an ambulance.

After being admitted to Monash Children’s Hospital, Hadley’s health improved for a little bit suggesting she was just dehydrated.

Hadley Strep A Infection story
Source: Tiny Hearts Education

However, once again, Hadley’s condition deteriorated incredibly quickly, even after fluids. She became confused and lethargic.

The team of doctors suggested that something other than dehydration was going on so took a blood test which indicated a possible infection.

By this stage we noticed her hands and feet went very cold and purple and her chest went a purple mottled colour with her refill at about 8-10 seconds, It was getting harder for her to breathe.”

Severe septic shock

Hadley’s health continued to deteriorate before Lyndal’s and a team of doctors’ eyes.

Her blood pressure was plummeting, and her extremities were discolouring rapidly… her heart was not coping and her body was shutting down. 

Her little body had gone into severe septic shock from what they thought was some kind of bacterial infection in her blood.” 

The team of medical professionals made the quick decision to sedate and intubate Hadley which meant Lyndal had to leave her daughter in the room. Two and a half hours later Lyndal was allowed to return to her daughter’s bedside.

Going back into that room was the most difficult thing I have ever done. We walked into a scene that no parent should ever have to experience. Our little angel had numerous tubes and wires attached to her.

And the sound of the ventilator is something that will forever stick with me. The head consultant then gave us the update that we came extremely close to losing her, but they’d been able to stabilise her for now.”

The doctors explained to Lydal that her daughter had Invasive Group Strep A.

Most parents have heard of Strep A – it’s responsible for tonsillitis and strep throat and is normally not life-threatening. The infection mainly impacts the throat but Strep A infections can also be responsible for infections such as Scarlett fever and Impetigo.

However, it can be more serious and potentially life-threatening when the bacteria invade the body and enter areas such as the blood. This is called invasive group A streptococcal disease.

It requires immediate medical attention and antibiotics given at a hospital. 

‘Early warning signs are often missed’

Hadley was lucky. After two weeks of ups and downs, she has made an almost full recovery other than some issues with her foot. Due to the compressed blood flow, Hadley now has compartment syndrome and Volkmann’s contracture in her calf and ankle and will require physical therapy.

Invasive Group Strep A
Source: Tiny Hearts Education

But the little fighter is determined to get back to her pre-sickness standing and learn to walk.

“The reality is, if we didn’t seek medication attention when we did then we wouldn’t have her here with us today,” Lyndal writes.

“It was just so lucky that we called an ambulance when we did and that we were in the hospital when it all went down. The reason Invasive Group A streptococcus is so devastating is because these early warning signs are missed and it’s often too late to treat.”

Health officials issue a Strep A warning 

Lyndal’s story acts as a timely reminder as health authorities in Australia recently issued a warning to be on alert for symptoms of Strep A. The warning comes after an Invasive Strep A variant from the UK has been detected in Australia.

The variant, known as M1UK is said to be behind a surge of deaths in the UK and Europe. Sadly, 40 children in the UK have died from invasive strep A in the past six months.

Strep A signs and symptoms

Strep A is a fairly common bacterial infection that causes strep throat, tonsillitis, impetigo, scarlet fever and cellulitis. It spreads through close contact with an infected person such as through coughs and sneezes or from a wound.

Children often get Strep A infections from being in daycare, kindy and other settings with children.

In most instances, children will require a course of antibiotics and be fine.

However, as parents, we need to be aware that Strep A can lead to Invasive Group Strep A. Invasive Group Strep A can cause sepsis, meningitis, toxic shock syndrome and necrotising fasciitis very very quickly. 

Signs of Strep A

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, body aches, nausea and vomiting and fatigue
  • Strep throat or tonsillitis – a sore red throat, swollen glands, pain with swallowing
  • Scarlet fever – a rash, swollen glands, blotchy skin
  • Impetigo – blistering scabs and sores on the body
  • Cellulitis – red, painful and swollen skin that may be warm or tight to touch

Signs of Invasive Group Strep A

  • Fevers 
  • Chills/sweats 
  • Dizziness 
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain 
  • Headache or stiff neck 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Red warm painful and rapidly spreading skin infection

If you suspect you or your little one has any signs of a Strep A infection, see your doctor immediately. We share these stories not to scare, but to help parents be aware and know what to watch for.

Thank you to Lyndal for sharing her experience and helping to raise awareness for such an important health concern.

As Lyndal says,

“You know your kid best and you can ALWAYS advocate for them if you’re worried. I’m just so glad we trusted our gut instincts, as they were right and also had professionals around us that didn’t dismiss our concerns. I hope my story helps other families out there.”

What to read next

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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