Girl left fighting for life after Strep A turned into flesh-eating bug

Girl, 4, was left fighting for her life after Strep A turned into a deadly flesh-eating bug

  • Reign Passey from Dudley had to undergo 4-hour operation due to the infection
  • Her family were also forced to wait outside hospital sitting on a chair by staff 
  • What are the symptoms of Strep A? Everything you need to know about the bug

A girl of four almost died after her Strep A turned into a deadly flesh-eating bug.

Reign Passey, from Dudley in the West Midlands, spent three weeks in hospital with the usually-mild bug. 

In extremely rare cases, the bacteria can penetrate deep inside the body and trigger necrotising fasciitis — given the grim moniker ‘the flesh-eating disease’. 

Reign had to undergo a four-hour operation to remove all the dead tissue to prevent the infection from spreading further.

Four-year-old Reign Passey was left fighting for her life in hospital and forced to undergo a four-hour operation after contracting an infection of flesh eating bacteria caused by a Strep A infection. She is pictured in hospital

Her mother Leanne Passey (pictured together) said she feared she might lose her daughter to the bug but Reign is now on her way to recovery 

What is Strep A?

Group A Streptococcus (Group A Strep or Strep A) bacteria can cause many different infections.

The bacteria are commonly found in the throat and on the skin, and some people have no symptoms.

Infections caused by Strep A range from minor illnesses to serious and deadly diseases.

They include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.

While the vast majority of infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bacteria cause an illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.


Reign has been left with a huge scar from the life-saving procedure — and she tells people it came from ‘winning a fight with a crocodile’.

Her mother Leanne claims had to stubbornly fight with medics to even get her ‘lifeless’ daughter seen, a decision that may have saved her life. 

‘It’s horrendous, you never expect it to happen to you until it does,’ the 31-year-old said.

‘I just want people to understand that it’s so serious.’

It is thought the bug may have entered Reign’s body through a chickenpox sore.

She came down with chickenpox on July 4 last year and, while poorly, appeared fine.

But three days later Ms Passey, an aesthetic practitioner, noticed her daughter had a temperature and was fatigued.

She also spotted a red ring around one of the sores, a sign that a wound has potentially become infected, which prompted her to take her daughter to a doctor for help. 

Upon seeing Reign, a GP advised them take her to A&E immediately.  

However, upon arriving at Russells Hall Hospital, Ms Passey claimed staff told her to give her daughter antibiotics and take her home, due to the fact she had the highly contagious chickenpox.  

But she refused to leave because she was concerned for her daughter’s health.

Ms Passey claimed she was eventually told that the hospital had no beds available, and staff would not be able to treat her daughter.

By this point, she said Reign was rapidly deteriorating.  

‘By this point the red ring had almost tripled in size,’ she said. 

‘They were adamant they were too busy, she was too contagious and I needed to take her home.

‘I said the only way I was leaving was if they kicked me out — she was deteriorating by the second.

Necrotising fasciitis, more commonly known as ‘flesh-eating disease’, is a rare but extremely vicious bacterial infection. ‘Necrotising’ refers to something that causes body tissue to die, and the infection can destroy skin, muscles and fat.

The disease develops when the bacteria enters the body, often through a minor cut or scrape. As the bacteria multiply, they release toxins that kill tissue and cut off blood flow to the area.

Because it is so virulent, the bacteria spreads rapidly throughout the body.

Symptoms include small, red lumps or bumps on the skin, rapidly-spreading bruising, sweating, chills, fever and nausea. Organ failure and shock are also common complications.

Sufferers must be treated immediately to prevent death, and are usually given powerful antibiotics and surgery to remove dead tissue. Amputation can become necessary if the disease spreads through an arm or leg.

Patients may undergo skin grafts after the infection has cleared up, to help the healing process or for aesthetic reasons.

There are 500 to 1,500 cases reported a year, but 20 to 25 percent of victims die.

‘They came back again and said there’s no beds. I was crying at this point. I said, “My child is really poorly and you’re dismissing her”.  

‘Everyone I spoke to says they would have left and took her home — but I said, “No she needs to be seen, there’s no way I’m leaving”.’  

Ms Passey eventually did did leave and took Reign to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, entering the hospital’s A&E at 9.30pm.

However, staff told them due to the contagious nature of chickenpox, they needed to wait outside to avoid infecting others.

Ms Passey said the family were given a chair and sat outside until 3.30am.

‘We got to the hospital at 9.30pm — we sat there until 3.30am,’ she said. 

‘Between those times, her temperature had gone up to almost 42C, she was hallucinating and talking to me.

‘She’d gone past the point of screaming and was lying there almost lifeless.’

It was at this point that Ms Passey decided she needed to take more drastic action. 

‘I picked her up and carried her through the doors and said “Someone needs to see my daughter, I feel like she’s dying”.’ 

Reign still wasn’t seen by a doctor until 8.30am, at which point Ms Passey said they realised how poorly her daughter was. 

‘[The doctors] thought she might have necrotising fasciitis as there was a black mark around the red ring,’ she said. 

‘I’d gone from a child with chickenpox to her needing to go in for major op — I was screaming and I thought there’s a chance she was going to die.’

Ms Passey only had a brief chance to give Reign a kiss and a cuddle before she was rushed to the operating theatre.  

Surgeons were not only forced to cut away a large amount of tissue but also had to leave the wound open for cleaning and examination to ensure every trace of the bacteria had been eradicated. 

During this time Reign was put into an induced coma due to the pain and also put on breathing support.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) figures show some 54,430 infections were recorded in 2022. It was more than 20 times the 2,659 seen in the previous year, and the highest on record since 1953, when 61,180 infections were posted

MailOnline analysis shows the North West was the worst-hit region, recording close to 3,000 cases in December. It was followed by the East Midlands (2,890), South East (2,701) and London (2,405). The North East — the least affected area — recorded 769 over the same period

But the family was dealt another blow, with the Reign contracting sepsis, a life-threatening over-reaction by the body to an infection. 

Ms Passey said medics then gave Reign a ‘ridiculous amounts of antibiotics’ which helped her pull through.

After recovering from sepsis, Reign was then transferred to the hospital’s burns unit for skin grafts for the massive wound on her side spending three weeks there before she was well enough to go home. 

A spokesperson for Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the Birmingham Children’s Hospital defended making the family sit outside.   

‘When a child arrives at our Emergency Department with an infectious condition, such as chicken pox, steps are taken to move them to a side room or cubicle to safely isolate them from other patients,’ they said. 

‘However, in times of very high demand when we are unable to offer this immediately, we identify somewhere for patients to wait away from the waiting room to minimise the risk of infection to other vulnerable patients.

‘This is only done when considered safe following an assessment with a clinical professional and we communicate with families that should they have any concerns to notify a member of the clinical team immediately.’

The spokesperson added they hoped Reign was recovering well. 

A spokesperson for Malling Health, which operates the Dudley Urgent Care Centre at Russells Hall Hospital said where the family initially sought help said: ‘We are sorry to hear about the experience recently shared with us.’

They added they were unable to comment on specific cases due to patient confidentiality but added they were committed to provided quality care. 

‘We are proud of the standards of care provided at our centres and we continue to work tirelessly and collaboratively with local NHS partners to ensure all patients are being provided with safe and high-quality care and support,’ they said.

Strep A is normally a mild bacterial illness that causes respiratory symptoms like a cough or sore throat.

However, it can also, albeit very rarely, lead to far more serious complications, which can be fatal.

This includes necrotising fasciitis, the flesh-eating disease, where bacteria enter the surface tissue through a cut, scrape or open sore.

The UK is currently experiencing its worst Strep A outbreak in years with over 40 children having been killed so far this season. 

A total of 30 under-18s have died of the usually-harmless bug, which causes scarlet fever, in England since the season kicked off in September. 

For comparison, 27 youngsters died from the bacterial infection during the 2017/18 season, which health chiefs consider to be the last ‘bad’ year.

And five Strep A deaths have been recorded in Wales this winter, three in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland. 

Some experts have suggested the rise in cases is linked to the Covid pandemic with lockdowns having left some youngsters with reduced immunity to Strep A — with a high number of children never having encountered the bacteria in their lifetime.

High rates of other respiratory viruses — including flu, RSV and norovirus — may also be putting children at higher risk of co-infections with Strep A, leaving them more susceptible to severe illness, the World Health Organization said.

Symptoms of a Strep A infection can include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting.

The infection can easily be treated with antibiotics if it is caught early, which also limits the spread and reduces the risk of complications. 

From the ‘bubbly’ seven-year-old whose father desperately tried CPR to save her, to the four-year-old who loved exploring: The victims of Strep A so far

Muhammad Ibrahim Ali

The four-year-old boy attended Oakridge School and Nursery in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

He died at home from a cardiac arrest in mid-November after contracting a Strep A infection.

He was prescribed antibiotics.

His mother Shabana Kousar told the Bucks Free Press: ‘The loss is great and nothing will replace that. 

‘He was very helpful around the house and quite adventurous, he loved exploring and enjoyed the forest school, his best day was a Monday and said how Monday was the best day of the week.

Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, who attended Oakridge School and Nursery in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, died after contracting the bacterial infection

Hannah Roap 

The ‘bubbly’ and ‘beautiful’ seven-year-old is the only child to have died from Strep A in Wales so far.

Her devastated parents told how their ‘hearts had broken into a million pieces’. 

The first signs of the infection were mild. Hannah’s father Abul took his daughter to the GP after a cough got worse overnight. 

She was prescribed steroids and sent home, but she died less than 12 hours later. 

Mr Roap recalled how he desperately tried to resuscitate his child: ‘She stopped breathing at 8pm but we were not immediately aware because she was sleeping.

‘I did CPR, I tried to revive her but it didn’t work. Paramedics arrived and continued the CPR but it was too late.’   

Mr Roap said the family was ‘utterly devastated’ and awaiting answers from the hospital.

The family believe she might have lived if she was initially given antibiotics. 

Hanna Roap, who attended Victoria Primary School in Penarth, Wales, died after contracting Strep A last month. Her family say they have been ‘traumatised’ by her death

Stella-Lily McCorkindale

Five-year-old Stella-Lily McCokindale died following a Strep A infection, the first death from the infection in Northern Ireland. 

She died on December 5 at Royal Belfast Hospital.

In a tribute on social media, her father Robert said the pair had ‘loved every minute’ of being together as they went on scooter and bike rides.

‘If prayers, thoughts, feelings and love could have worked she would have walked out of that hospital holding her daddy’s hand,’ he said.  

Stella-Lily attended Black Mountain Primary School, which said she was ‘a bright and talented little girl’ and described her death as a ‘tragic loss’. 

Five-year-old Stella-Lily McCokindale who attended Black Mountain Primary School in Belfast died in early December after contracting Strep A

Jax Albert Jefferys

A five-year-old boy who died of Strep A was misdiagnosed as having flu, his family has said.

Jax Albert Jefferys, from Waterlooville, Hampshire, died on December 1.

His mother Charlene told how she had sought medical advice three times during the four days leading up to Jax’s death and was told he was suffering from influenza A. She described Jax as a ‘cheeky little chappy’. 

Later tests revealed he actually had Strep A.

Jax Albert Jefferys, a five-year-old from Waterlooville, Hampshire, died on , December 1, from Strep A

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