Call for Strep B screening to be offered routinely

Sinn Fein Councillor Sandra Duffy
Sinn Fein Councillor Sandra Duffy

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson, Councillor Sandra Duffy, has called for screening for Group B Streptococcus to be available for all pregnant women in the north at an appropriate stage during their pregnancy.

The Ballyarnett representative warned said that while the Group B Streptococcus virus can cause serious illness or death in newborn babies, this was preventable.

“There is a test available to prevent this virus being passed to babies and it saves lives. A pilot testing scheme is being rolled out in England, Wales and Scotland at present. The Department of Health should ensure that testing is available to all pregnant women in the north at an appropriate stage during their pregnancy.

“Unfortunately we have had deaths because of Group Strep B in the north and a coroner has warned that there could be more so it is important this screening is available to all pregnant women in order to save lives.”

Strep B is a bacterium carried by about 30 per cent of people without causing harm. Health authorities here have stated that while it causes no problem in most pregnancies, it can infect the baby, usually just before or during labour, leading to serious or even fatal illness.

Most babies who are infected show symptoms within 12 hours of birth, but there are some who get it later. Symptoms include: being floppy and unresponsive, not feeding well, grunting, high or low temperature, fast or slow heart rate or breathing, and irritability.