There are around 250 cases of neonatal bacterial meningitis each year in the UK and 10 to 12 per cent of these cases are fatal. Up to half of survivors may be left with after-effects.
The majority of GBS infection occurs in newborn babies, as their immune systems have not had time to develop, allowing the bacteria to spread through the blood and cause serious infections such as meningitis, septicaemia or pneumonia.
About 60 to 70 per cent of GBS is early onset (less than seven days after birth). This is usually septicaemia and is most likely due to infection being passed on from the mother before or during birth.
Late onset disease (between seven and 28 days after birth), which is usually meningitis, is probably transmitted when babies come into contact with hands contaminated with GBS bacteria.
Very few adults develop GBS disease.
Currently no vaccine available
There is currently no vaccine to protect against GBS disease and no national screening programme in the UK to routinely check all pregnant women to see if they are carrying GBS bacteria. However, a risk-based strategy is used and antibiotics can be given to women at increased risk of GBS disease during labour and also to babies immediately after birth.
The signs and symptoms of meningitis or septicaemia are often non-specific at first and can be difficult to recognise in very young babies, so our advice is trust your instincts as a parent and seek urgent medical attention if you suspect your child is ill. Babies with GBS need rapid admission to hospital and urgent treatment with antibiotics.
If you want to know more about GBS and neonatal meningitis you can download our fact sheet here
In the UK the lead organisation on Group B Strep is the charity Group B Strep Support. Its main goal for the awareness month is to generate even more healthy baby success stories. You can read more on their work here
Don’t face meningitis alone. If you have an experience, please get in touch – call our Helpline on 0808 80 10 388