Posted by Ali Cloak, Senior Associate
July 2014: Group B Strep Awareness Month
Ali Cloak, solicitor in our Clinical Negligence team, explains why more needs to be done to reduce the number of babies being severely harmed or dying from GBS infection.
What is GBS?
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a common bacterium, found in approximately 25% of humans. In the vast majority of cases it is carried harmlessly, with the individual being entirely unaware. However, if present in the birth canal, it can be passed from mother to baby during labour. If mother or baby are untreated it can cause catastrophic injuries and even death for the neonate.
Our specialist team has seen first hand how devastating the effects of the infection can be, having acted on behalf of claimants who have suffered injuries such as septicaemia, meningitis and cerebral palsy as a result of GBS infection.
GBS Awareness Month
July is GBS Awareness month, organised by Group B Strep Support, the UK’s only specific GBS charity. It is intended to raise awareness of the infection, symptoms and treatment options, as well as promoting the sought-after policy for universal GBS screening in pregnant women.
The vast majority of GBS infections in newborn babies can be prevented easily, safely and cheaply. Group B Strep Support have highlighted three key steps which would drastically reduce the numbers of newborn babies acquiring GBS infection and suffering life changing injuries or dying as a result:
- Every woman should routinely be given accurate information about GBS during antenatal care.
Surveys have found that large numbers of pregnant women have never heard of Group B Streptococcus infection, which is astounding given that GBS infection is the cause of death most commonly recorded on the death certificates of newborn babies.
- Low risk women should be offered a test for GBS at 35-37 weeks gestation.
The presence of the bacteria can be confirmed with a swab test and prompt, simple treatment can be offered if required.
- Every high risk woman should be offered antibiotics in labour.
Up to 90% of GBS infection in newborns can be prevented by giving antibiotics to the woman during her labour.
Current NHS guidelines leave a lot to be desired and policy has fallen behind the practices of other developed countries. The United States, Spain, France and Australia have all seen significant falls in the number of newborn babies with GBS infection due to the implementation of universal screening programmes.
The charity has set up a petition in support of these 3 goals, which is available at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/60515.
The team at Withy King are fully in support of the campaign of Group B Strep Support as we see the devastating effects that this infection can have on babies and their families and we fully endorse the Group’s initiatives to reduce the incidence of this infection.
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