Durkan supports Group B Strep Awareness Month as he vows to continue lobbying for introduction of screening programme

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan is supporting Group B Strep Awareness Month which takes place every July, and has pledged to continue his lobby for the introduction of a Britain-wide screening programme for the little-known bacteria which kills one newborn baby every week.

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) can be passed from mother to baby in labour and can be fatal or cause meningitis, brain damage and cerebral palsy.

Mr Durkan, a member of the APPG on Group B Strep, has lobbied David Cameron in the House of Commons and Ministers from the Department of Health on the issue, after tabling a parliamentary motion calling for all levels of government to embrace the case for screening.

He said: “I am delighted to support Group B Strep Awareness Month and the campaign aimed at preventing newborn babies becoming seriously ill and dying from this rare but deadly infection.

“GBS infection is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies in the UK, with Northern Ireland unfortunately leading that statistic.

“Indeed, I am deeply concerned that the reported incidence of GBS infection in newborn babies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland increased by 32% between 2003 and 2010.

“Without preventative action, 1 in 1,000 newborn babies per year will develop GBS infection, of whom approximately 75 will die and 40 will survive with long-term problems.

“Where screening programmes have been introduced, including in the United States, Spain, Australia and France, reported cases of GBS infection in newborn babies have fallen by 86%, 86%, 82% and 71% respectively.”

Mr Durkan concluded: “I will therefore be continuing my lobby on all levels of government to embrace the case for screening and make a good change happen.”

For more information on B Strep visit the charity website www.gbss.org.uk/Pregnant which contains a wealth of information about British guidelines on group B Strep or the GBS Awareness Month link http://gbss.org.uk/campaigning/gbs-awareness-month/?

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