Andrea’s Southwold run will help highlight life-threatening infections
MENTION it to a friend or relative and you can expect the same response: 'Group B Strep? Never heard of it'.
But one Reydon mum knows all too well the devastating impact of this little-known germ.
Andrea English, 37, was left desperately searching for answers when her new-born daughter began losing weight and refused to feed after a straightforward birth three years ago.
After weeks of struggling for a diagnosis, doctors pin- pointed the problem as late-onset Group B Streptococcus (GBS) – the most common cause of life-threatening infections in new-born babies.
For Andrea, this meant weeks of worry as her baby girl Orla underwent life-saving surgery to fight an outbreak of meningitis, a build-up of fluid on the brain and an inflammation of her brain ventricles.
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But she believes her daughter's suffering could have been avoided if more parents and doctors knew how to identify GBS.
As a result, she is planning to do all that she can to help raise awareness – including reaching for her trainers and taking part in the Adnams 10k race in Southwold next weekend.
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Andrea, who works as a nurse for the St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich, is calling on sponsors to support her cause as she looks to raise hundreds of pounds for the campaigning charity Group B Strep Support.
'I find that so many people say 'GBS – what is that? I have never heard of it'. But I've been telling people that it's important expecting mothers are tested because these tests are not routinely done,' she said.
'The cause I am running for are campaigning to make sure that tests for GBS are carried out routinely because people, like me, would never give a second thought to having a test for GBS.
'Also, I feel doctors need to be educated better about GBS because they may have seen the tell-tale signs of the infection, but been unable to identify that it is there. It is all about getting the word out and raising money for the charity so they can get the information out there really.'
GBS is harmless to people who carry the germ, but it can lead to infection in babies during birth, or shortly after.
According to Group B Strep Support, up to 10pc of babies infected with GBS die from resulting infections, while some of those who survive suffer serious long-term mental or physical disabilities.
Orla, who is now three years old, eventually managed to overcome her struggle with infection, but will spend the rest of her life with a shunt in her brain to control the amount of cerebral fluid.
Speaking about her training for the race, Andrea said: 'I have been training for ages, but I am not a great runner, so it is hard work. My aim is to just get round, but not in any amazing time.
'I have got friends and family supporting me and it is a good cause.'
Group B Strep Support is campaigning for pregnant women to be informed about GBS as part of their routine ante-natal care, while making sure GBS-specific testing is freely available to all pregnant women.
The Adnams 10k is being held on Sunday, November 18, with runners starting at the Harbour Inn then looping through the town two-and-a-half times before finishing at South Green, near the Red Lion.
?To sponsor Andrea, visit www.gbss.org.uk and click on 'fundraising'.
?For more information about Group B Strep Support, ring 01444 416176 or visit www.gbss.org.uk