Stay well and protect your loved ones this Christmas 

Somerset County Council’s Director of Public Health is urging people to take action to prevent the spread of infections within our families and communities, especially as we meet up for Christmas.

Group A Strep infections have increased unseasonably both nationally and locally here in Somerset. Just like flu and Covid-19, strep A is a respiratory infection and can be prevented using basic hygiene measures that we can all adopt.

Professor Trudi Grant said: “For the last two winters, we have all been protecting ourselves against Covid-19 and have changed our behaviours to help make sure we stay infection free. During these two years we have had much lower numbers of cases of other winter respiratory illnesses, such as flu, due to these infection prevention measures. This year, these infection numbers are back to pre-covid19 levels.

“There are simple things we can all do to help combat Group A Strep infections this winter and help prevent the spread of other respiratory infections and diseases.” 

Four simple steps to stop the spread of infections this winter include: 

  1. Let’s keep washing our hands. It sounds so simple but washing your hands with soap and warm water is one of the easiest ways to prevent yourself and others from catching illnesses like flu, norovirus, the common cold and Group A Strep. 
  1. If you are coughing or sneezing, ‘Catch It, Bin It, Kill It’. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and catch the droplets of infection, bin the tissue and then wash your hands. 
  1. If you or your children have a fever and are coughing you are likely to be infectious to others and so we would advise for you to stay at home until the fever passes without medication. This is particularly important if you are visiting older people or those with long term health conditions, who may be more vulnerable to infections.  
  1. Strep A is transmitted by droplets, that can land on surfaces from coughing or transfer to surfaces when touched with contaminated hands. The viruses live on the surface waiting to infect people who come into contact with them e.g bannisters, doorhandles – cleaning surfaces regularly clear these viruses and prevent onward spread. 

While case numbers are high, parents should be on the lookout for the symptoms of scarlet fever so that appropriate and timely treatment can be given. 

Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness that clears up quickly after a course of antibiotics. It usually starts with a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, followed by a rash that feels like sandpaper to the touch. The rash usually develops after 12 to 48 hours, typically on the chest and stomach first, then rapidly spreading to other parts of the body. 

Cllr Adam Dance, Executive Lead Member for Public Health, Equalities and Diversity has reiterated that message.  

“The festive season is well and truly here and we’re encouraging everyone to remain well this winter by looking after themselves and their loved ones and following simple basic hygiene measures. 

“This Christmas is also particularly challenging with cost-of-living pressures, so it’s even more important to keep well and healthy. We need everyone to remember that it is so important to take steps to reduce the spread of infection, so, let’s take all the steps to make sure we look after ourselves and each other to stay well and bug-free this Christmas.”