HEALTH services across Scotland have been put on alert and guidance has been issued to nurseries and schools as the country braces for an increase in Strep A cases.

Nine children in the UK have died from the bacterial infection – also known as scarlet fever - since September.

Although there have not yet been any deaths from the condition in Scotland, parents are becoming increasingly concerned with reports of infections rising right across Scotland.

In response to a topical question from Tory MSP Sandesh Gulhane, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government was “not complacent” and steps were being taken to ensure schools and health services are well prepared for outbreaks.

He told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday: “A number of children in England and Wales have sadly died from invasive Group A Strep (GAS) infections since September. My deepest condolences go out to their families.

“Reports of Group A Strep infections have increased right across Scotland. There are no reports of any deaths in Scotland related to Strep conditions but I understand the reporting of GAS conditions will be concerning and let me offer some reassurance the vast majority of GAS infections present themselves as mild illness that is easily treated by Penicillin or other antibiotics.

READ MORE: Census will lead to 'misconception' about Britishness, say experts

“Current numbers do not significantly exceed previous spikes but that said, we’re not complacent, health services across Scotland are on alert.

“Guidance has been prepared for nurseries and schools especially on maintaining good hygiene and managing outbreaks. Everyone should self-isolate until they have completed 24 hours of antibiotics.”

Gulhane raised that in the House of Lords this week, the option of using antibiotics in schools as a preventative measure was talked about if cases were present in the school.

Asked if the Scottish Government was considering this, Yousaf said: “I’ve asked Public Health Scotland and my clinical colleagues to give advice to that effect. We do expect cases to rise over the coming weeks.”

Questioned by Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie about how children can be seen quickly, as new figures show A&E waiting times at their worst on record, Yousaf said the appropriate guidance was being given across the health service, but stressed that GPs should be the primary point of contact for potential infections.

He also said there had been a “marked and significant increase” in calls to the NHS24 helpline over the weekend relating to children under the age of 14.