A pupil at a Hove school has died from strep A, it has been confirmed.

The Argus understands that the girl, who was a pupil at Hove Park School in Hangleton Way, was aged 12 and that they were taken to the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital after being referred by their GP.

Specialists from the UK Health Security Agency and Brighton and Hove City Council are working with the school to provide advice on all necessary public health actions and that accurate information is shared with the school community.

Dr Rachael Hornigold, consultant in health protection at UKHSA South East, said: “We are extremely saddened to hear about the death of a young child, and our thoughts are with their family, friends and the local community.

“Infection with Group A Streptococcus bacterium usually causes a sore throat, scarlet fever or skin rash and is passed by physical contact or through droplets from sneezing or coughing.

“In very rare cases, the infection can become invasive and enter parts of the body where bacteria aren’t normally found, which can be serious.

“We will implement public health actions including advice to the city council and school community.”

As of Monday, 26 children in Sussex were infected with the illness, but that figure is now understood to be higher.

Alistair Hill, director of public health at Brighton & Hove City Council said: “We are working with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Hove Park School following the death of a pupil who attended the school.

“We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and the whole school community who will all be deeply affected by the very tragic loss of this young child, and we are providing our support to them at this incredibly sad time. While we cannot comment on individual cases, we ask that the privacy of the family is respected.

“As a precaution, we have also been working closely with the school to raise awareness amongst parents and carers of the signs and symptoms of Group A Streptococcal infections, and what to do if a child develops these, including invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS).

“I would stress that contracting iGAS disease from another person is very rare. Most people who come into contact with Group A Streptococcal infections remain well and symptom-free – and therefore there is no reason for children to be kept home if well. However, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell please contact NHS 111.”

Group A strep bacteria can cause many different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases.

Illnesses caused by strep A include skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.

While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, the bacteria can sometimes cause a life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.

Infections are spread through close contact with an infected person and can be passed on through coughs and sneezes or from a wound.

The bacteria live in the body in some people without causing symptoms, but they can still pass the bacteria on to others.

Some viral infections, such as a cold or flu, open sores or wounds, and a weakened immune system, can make people more at risk of infection.

Adults can get strep A, but the illness is more common among children.

The chance of catching or spreading the illness can be reduced by washing hands frequently with soap and water, covering mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, and binning used tissues as quickly as possible.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there is no current evidence that a new strain is circulating and the rise in cases is most likely due to high amounts of circulating bacteria and increased social mixing.

Dr Colin Brown, deputy director at the UKHSA, said that scarlet fever and strep throat are common childhood illnesses that can be treated with antibiotics.

He said: “Very rarely, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause more serious illness called invasive group A strep. 

“We know that this is concerning for parents, but I want to stress that while we are seeing an increase in cases in children, this remains very uncommon.

“There are lots of winter bugs circulating that can make your child feel unwell, that mostly aren’t cause for alarm.

“However, make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is getting worse after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat or respiratory infection - look out for signs such as a fever that won’t go down, dehydration, extreme tiredness and difficulty breathing.”

Earlier this week, Brighton and Hove City Council wrote to parents to urge them to recognise the symptoms of the disease.

Symptoms of strep throat can include a sore throat, pain when swallowing, fever, red and swollen tonsils, severe muscle aches, tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth and swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck.

However, they do not typically include a cough, runny nose, hoarseness or conjunctivitis, which are more likely caused by a virus and not from Strep A infection.

Pharmacists across the country have taken to Twitter to complain of shortages in access to antibiotics, including the liquid version of penicillin, which is often given to children.

However, health secretary Steve Barclay said that checks within the Department of Health have not revealed an issue with the supply of medicines.

Hove Park School and the University Hospital Sussex NHS Foundation Trust were approached for comment.