THIS week Group B Strep NI Families brought their ‘B’ Aware campaign to the steps of Stormont to meet with Health Minister Edwin Poots to put forward their case for more Group B Streptococcus (GBS) awareness.
The ‘B’ Aware campaign is being spearheaded by families of three babies who died due to the preventable Group B Strep infection.
They want people to be aware, be tested and get antibiotics if necessary.
The group is calling on health minister Poots to listen to their message, and the message of all affected families, so that a preventable bacterial infection can be caught before it destroys lives.
They want simple and life saving preventative changes to be introduced to current antenatal practices.
According to Group B Strep Support statistics, 75 children a year die from GSB, while 700 are infected and 40 end up suffering long-term disabilities.
Portaferry couple Jillian and Andy Boyd, who now live in east Belfast, launched the campaign after their baby Erin died at birth this year, while another couple, Mark and Sarah Cowan, lost their little son Harry after just 11 hours.
On September 14, the Assembly’s Health Department will be holding a Special Evidence Health Committee where a number of families affected by the bacterial infection will be giving evidence to the committee about their experiences and health professionals and GSB Support representatives will be making a presentation.
Jillian Boyd said: “A number of politicians wrote to the health minister requesting the same things as we’re requesting.”
She said a politician she had been speaking to had been affected by GSB and had been extremely helpful in the campaign but wanted to respect their privacy and did not identify them.
“There is a campaign across the UK but we’re calling for it in just Northern Ireland,” she added.
Her husband Andy said: “We wanted to start small; Northern Ireland is where we are from.”
He said that if they could get more awareness in Northern Ireland and roll out the £32 tests for parents it would be a start, and a way to work towards raising awareness across the UK.
Jillian said: “We feel we have a strong case to put to the minister and he has the power to make a decision on whether to change things.
“The minister is saying there are 7,000 women affected by this and that could lead to 7,000 women on antibiotics which could lead to more health problems.”
Andy said: “No one in the USA has suffered these problems to date and they have been testing people for GSB since 2002.”
The USA, Australia, Canada and even Kenya have GSB screening for women and when caught, the bacteria is treated with a course of antibiotics during labour.