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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 September 2005, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Charity aims to curb baby illness
Group B Strep Support campaign poster
The NHS test for Group B Strep has shown to be unreliable
A charity based in West Sussex is trying to raise awareness of the most common cause of a life-threatening bacterial infection in newborn babies.

Group B Strep Support estimates that about 700 babies develop Group B streptococcal infections each year.

About 75 babies die and 40 suffer long-term mental or physical problems.

As part of its first awareness week, volunteers from the Haywards Heath charity are taking information packs to maternity hospitals across the UK.

'Knowledge gap'

They are also planning to hand in a petition to 10 Downing Street urging the government to support routine testing for Group B strep (GBS).

The NHS does offer a test for GBS, but it is not routine and has proved to be unreliable in about 50% of cases.

Another more reliable test is only available through GPs and patients must pay a fee.

It is estimated that 25% of women carry the bacteria without even knowing it.

The information packs contain leaflets explaining how GBS infections in newborn babies can be prevented by offering antibiotics to pregnant women in labour if certain situations arise and where the mother has a history of GBS.

Group B Strep Support said midwives and other health professionals often did not fully understand how GBS infections could be prevented.

The charity hopes the awareness week will help address the knowledge gap.

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