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Bug outbreak prompts James Paget clampdown

15:36 04 March 2011

HUNDREDS of staff at the James Paget University Hospital were screened, along with other measures, as bosses fought to control the outbreak of a bug which is linked to the death of a patient.

Following higher-than-usual cases of Group A Streptococcus (GAS) in recent months, staff have been throat swabbed for the bug, with 10 being sent home and given antibiotics after testing positive.

The bug is often a mild infection that can affect up to one in three of the general population who are not aware they are carriers. It is often symptomless, but can lead to a sore throat, skin infection or something that resembles flu.

Though many who catch it recover quickly, in extreme forms it can also cause severe illness and complicate other conditions, especially those in hospitals. And visitors could be carriers.

There has been widespread concern at the JPH, which has had to deal with 21 cases in recent months, and a death in which the disease was one of multiple causes.

However, no new incidents have been recorded since February 14, indicating the fast and stringent action has kept it under control.

A spokesman for the hospital stressed the bug was not unusual for the time of year and added levels of the disease were back to normal. They said: “This rise occurred in December and January within the local community and in the hospital.

“However as a result of the stringent infection control measures introduced, the numbers of positive cases both in the hospital and the community appear to be falling.”

Of the 21 cases, 10 had come as a result of spread within the hospital. Following the outbreak those affected were isolated, with further screening of all those where GAS was detected, while one clinical area was closed. A warning was originally given last month by the hospital to visitors, asking them not to visit if they were feeling unwell.

And though some have pointed to the increase as possibly due to the natural cycle of the disease, the authority accepted it was not sure of the exact cause.

“The reasons behind the recent rise in Strep A cases, which now seem to be back to normal levels, are not fully understood,” the spokesman said.

“The Health Protection Agency, in conjunction with the hospital and community, is studying possible causes locally.

“It’s not unusual to see peaks in the community from time to time. Such occurrences have been seen throughout the UK in recent years.”

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