Support for new Strep B steering group

THE Group B Strep Support group has expressed its support for the new regional steering group set up to oversee work on preventing Group B Streptococcal (GBS) infection in newborn babies in Northern Ireland.

Members of the group have now been invited to participate in discussions and the hope is these will lead to the introduction of routine antenatal screening in pregnant women throughout Northern Ireland.

The issue was raised last year by a number of families whose babies had unexpectedly died as a result of Strep B and many mothers spoke publically about their personal tragedies, including Sarah Cowan from Banbridge whose baby son Harry died after contracting the bacteria at just 11 hours old.

A number of families met with Health Minister Edwin Poots to plead for change and ask for a Northern Ireland-wide screening programme to be introduced.

Speaking after the recent announcement, a spokesperson for the Strep B campaigners said, “The creation of the steering group marks another positive step forward in our struggle to prevent GBS infections. I hope it will adopt a positive position on the benefits of a GBS screening programme for pregnant women and will make that view known to the UK National Screening Committee when the forthcoming public consultation opens.”

GBS is a normal bacteria carried by up to 30 per cent of adults. It can be passed from mother to baby during labour and while for most babies this causes no problems, for others it can be deadly, causing blood infection, pneumonia and meningitis.

Sensitive tests for GBS are only readily available from a handful of private laboratories in the UK and from a similar number of NHS hospitals.

Testing packs are free and a postal service for carrying out the test costs around £35. More information is available at www.gbss.org.uk/test.