Constant illness challenges highlighted by Group A strep case
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Hospitalisation of educator highlights challenges of constant illness in ECEC

Hospitalisation of educator highlights challenges of constant illness in ECEC

by Freya Lucas

September 22, 2023

An early childhood education and care (ECEC) professional has been placed into intensive care with a severe Group A Streptococcus infection after a toddler, who attended the same facility, died last month.


The 20 month old toddler passed away on August 6, later testing positive to strep A in her bloodstream. While the two cases at the centre are considered a small cluster of invasive Group A Streptococcal disease, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer John Gerrard described the outbreak as rare when speaking with the ABC. 


Dr Gerrard said close contacts of the two cases have been offered preventative antibiotics, adding the greater public should be “alert but not alarmed”.


The case highlights the challenges many ECEC educators face, encountering several illnesses in the course of their working day with limited capacity to avoid becoming ill themselves as a result. 


Group A Streptococcus is a common bacterium spread from person to person through unwashed hands or via coughing and sneezing, common things encountered in a typical day in an ECEC service. 


While most people exposed to Group A Streptococcus do not become unwell, it can cause skin and throat infections and occasionally invades into the bloodstream, muscle, or lungs, resulting in serious illness.


Invasive Group A strep disease is one of the causes of sepsis, which is an abnormal immune response which can be life threatening. 


Medical experts attribute the rise of invasive strep A infections across Australia and internationally to the atypical time period since 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak began, and in subsequent years where isolation practices limited the spread of many illnesses outside COVID-19. 


In Queensland, the ABC notes, health data shows invasive strep A infections have more than doubled from 176 reported cases at this stage of the year in 2021, to 435 so far in 2023. The state’s five-year average up to September 11 is 227 cases.


Services are encouraged to work with families to keep children home when ill, and to support educators through adequate leave to prevent the spread of illness. 


To access the ABC coverage of this story please see here

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button