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Screen pregnant women for group Strep B

Campaigners say infection is potentially deadly to newborns but preventable

OnMedica Staff

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The NHS is being urged to screen pregnant women for group B Strep infection because the preventable infection can be deadly to newborns.

Medical charity Group B Strep Support is calling on politicians in Northern Ireland to take the lead because infection rates are highest there than elsewhere in the UK

Northern Ireland’s new junior minister Jeffrey Donaldson and NI MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell jointly hosted an information event this week to raise awareness of the campaign. 

Mr Donaldson said: “Northern Ireland has the highest rate of GBS infection in babies in the UK.  Group B Strep causes many families unnecessary distress and heartache every year.  We in Northern Ireland have the opportunity to lead the way in the UK by raising awareness of GBS and introducing screening to protect our babies from this devastating and preventable infection."

Dr McDonnell, who is a GP, said: “Testing for GBS is a routine part of antenatal care in many countries but not in Northern Ireland. Accurate testing of pregnant woman must be made available by the Department of Health if we are to save parents the heartache of losing their newborn to this fatal but preventable infection”. 

Prof Philip Steer, Professor of Obstetrics at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London, addressing the meeting said, "GBS infection can usually be prevented by giving antibiotics during labour to women whose babies are most at risk.  All expectant mothers should be given the opportunity to take a simple swab test and find out if they are carrying GBS; this knowledge could save their baby's life.  At the moment, lives are being lost needlessly."

Pictured: Mr Jeffrey Donaldson with Prof Philip Steer and Jane Plumb

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