My son Edward Gili would have been 2 in May this year, but we sadly lost him at just 9 days' old because he contracted a Group B Strep infection during birth.
July is Group B Strep Awareness month and so on 23 July, my sister, Edward's Aunty Karon and I will swim 1500m in the River Thames from Henley rowing club to raise awareness and funds for the charity Group B Strep Support to celebrate their 20th Anniversary and help continue their vital work in raising awareness and campaigning for much needed improvement in the handling of this life-threatening infection in the UK.
On average, one newborn baby a day in the UK develops group B Strep infection. One baby a week dies from group B Strep infection. One baby a fortnight who survives the infection is left with long-term disabilities - physical, mental or both. It is the UK’s most common cause of severe bacterial infection in newborn babies, and of meningitis in babies under 3 months.
Group B Strep is a normal bacterium carried by around a quarter of all women, without symptoms and usually unknowingly. It can be passed from mother to baby around birth with potentially devastating consequences for the baby. But these consequences are usually preventable.
Unlike many other developed countries including Germany and Spain, the UK does not routinely offer tests to pregnant women specifically to check for Group B Strep carriage during late pregnancy. If doctors know a mum is carrying GBS, they can administer simple antibiotics during labour to prevent the infection - over 80% of these infections could be prevented. However the GBS-specific ECM (enriched culture medium) test is rarely available through the NHS.
Since 2003, the UK has used ‘risk factors’ to guess which pregnant women might be at risk. Risk factors are poor at predicting which babies will develop the infection -- the number of babies infected is growing, we need to stop guessing and start testing. The ECM test costs the NHS £11 each and the antibiotics used in labour (usually penicillin) cost the NHS pennies.
Had we had ECM tests in place, Edward Gili could be here with us today. Please be GBS aware and help us to prevent this devastating loss happening to other babies, other mummies, other families.
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