An investigation into the deaths of 12 people in Mid Essex who contracted a rare bacterial infection is continuing.

The Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says most of the 32 people who have been diagnosed with Group A Streptococcal infection (strep A) have been elderly and insist the risk to the wider public is low.

The outbreak started in Braintree and though the majority of cases are understood to have been recorded in the district, the infection has also spread to Chelmsford and Maldon.

READ MORE: CCG orders deep clean of community nurse bases in mid Essex

With the CCG due to meet later today and discuss the outbreak of Strep, here is everything you need know including what you need to look out for and what health bosses are saying.

What is Group A Streptococcal?

Known as strep A or GAS, the infection is a bacteria that can be found in the throat and on the skin. The CCG says that for many people, it will not cause illness. There is said to be an extremely low risk of serious infection to healthy people.

However on rare occasions, bacteria can enter the body and organs such as muscles or lungs, as well as into the blood.

This infection is called Invasive Group A streptococcal disease (IGAS) and in some cases, can be deadly. Elderly people being treated for chronic wounds are thought to be most at risk.

Anyone diagnosed with the infection is given antibiotics.

What are the possible symptoms and how is it spread?

Symptoms of the infection typically include a sore throat, scarlet fever or even a skin infection. The bacteria can live in throats and hands long enough to spread between humans. It is typically passed on through sneezing, kissing and skin contact.

The invasive and potentially deadly strand can, in rare cases, cause pneumonia, sepsis or a condition called necrotising fasciitis.

The CCG says those affected have been people with an average age of 87 living in the community, such as those living at home or in care homes.

What is the Mid Essex CCG saying?

The group which covers the Braintree, Maldon and Chelmsford district has been quick to ease concerns about the outbreak and is leading the incident management team set up to tackle the issue. The first death connected to the outbreak occurred in February.


Rachel Hearn, Director of Nursing and Quality, Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have died.

“The NHS in Essex is working closely with Public Health England and other partners to manage this local incident, and extra infection control measures have been put in place to prevent the infection spreading in the area.

“The risk of contracting iGAS is very low for the vast majority of people and treatment with antibiotics is very effective if started early. We will continue to work with our partners in Public Health England to investigate how this outbreak occurred and take every possible step to ensure our local community is protected.”

Public Health England's response

The government watchdog is part of the investigation into what caused the outbreak and how it can be controlled.

Deputy director of health protection, Dr Jorg Hoffmann, has now spoken out about the incident and has moved to reassure the public.

He said: “Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have become ill or who have died. Public Health England is working closely to support the NHS, Mid Essex CCG and provider colleagues and local authorities in the area affected to investigate the cause of the infection and prevent more people becoming unwell.

“All those affected are in vulnerable groups, which puts them at higher risk for what is normally a rarer form of Group A streptococcal infection.

“I would like to emphasise the risk of contracting invasive Group A Streptococcal is very low for healthy people and treatment with antibiotics is very effective, if started early enough.

“This is still an evolving situation and colleagues in the provider organisation, the CCG, NHS and Public Health England are working very hard to contain it.”

Who can I contact if I am concerned?

Anyone who is worried can call a Freephone helpline on 03000 032124. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

The Mid Essex CCG says it will be keeping its website updated and will inform the public of any new developments.

MPs react to outbreak

A number of MPs in mid Essex have had their say on the outbreak having first been informed of the problem several weeks ago.


Braintree MP James Cleverly said: "The CCG have highlighted what they are doing to make sure the bacteria is controlled. They are acting very professionally and doing everything they can to ensure that it doesn’t spread.

“It’s very distressing and saddening that people have lost their lives through this infection. The NHS seems to be taking it really seriously and are keeping an eye on it.

“I can absolutely understand why people are concerned about this but people who are healthy shouldn’t be worried. It is rare and the people mainly at risk are those who are elderly with chronic conditions.

“My advice to anyone who is concerned would be to seek proper advise from a medical professional or directly from the NHS.”


Maldon MP John Whittingdale said: "I was obviously very concerned to learn that there have been a number of cases of Group A Streptococcal infection in Mid Essex, resulting in a number of deaths.

"I have been in close touch with Mid Essex CCG about this over the last few weeks and have appreciated their keeping me informed. There have been only two cases in my own constituency, both affecting patients receiving care at home.

"I welcome the rapid establishment of an incident management team with representatives of all relevant NHS bodies and the measures that are being put in place to identify the causes and to prevent any further infection.

"I am in frequent contact with Mid Essex CCG and have asked for regular updates. I am assured that the risk to the general public is extremely low."


Witham MP Priti Patel said: "I am naturally concerned about this outbreak, particularly as two out of the three people affected in Witham constituency have since passed away.

"I am working closely with the Mid Essex CCG, who are providing me with regular updates on the work the NHS is doing to manage and control the situation.

"This includes enhanced infection prevention measures and higher use of personal protective equipment as well as studies of case histories to establish where the outbreak began and how it is spreading.

"I will continue to monitor the situation.

"Thankfully, the numbers involved are small and, hopefully, the work the NHS is doing to prevent further infections will rapidly bring the outbreak under control, if it hasn’t done so already. My condolences go to anyone who has recently lost a relative to this outbreak."

Gazette: Witham Spring LodgeWitham Spring Lodge

What will today's meeting focus on?

The Mid Essex CCG is staging its quarterly meeting at Witham Spring Lodge, Powers Hall End, Witham at 2.30pm this afternoon.

The meeting is open to the public and will see a range of issues discussed as well as the strep A outbreak.

An agenda for the meeting can be viewed online.