An investigation has been launched after 12 people died following an outbreak of a bacterial infection in Braintree.

The Mid Essex CCG has revealed there have been 32 cases of the Group A Streptococcal infection recorded since February this year.

The majority of cases are said to have occurred in the Braintree area but some people in Maldon and Chelmsford have also been affected.

Most of the patients affected are elderly and had been receiving care for chronic wounds in the community either in their own homes and or in care homes.

Details of the outbreak were first revealed in Mid Essex CCG board papers, which will be further discussed in a meeting on Thursday.

The report states: "Group A streptococcus (GAS) can be found in the throat and on the skin and people may carry Group A streptococci in the throat or on the skin and have no symptoms of illness.

"It can live in throats and on hands for long enough to allow easy spread between people through sneezing, kissing and skin contact. Sometimes life-threatening GAS disease may occur when bacteria get into parts of the body where bacteria usually are not found, such as the blood, muscle, or the lungs."

The board papers go on to state an incident management team has been set up to control the outbreak and closely monitor the situation.

A cause of the spread of the infection has not yet been identified and a full investigation is being carried out to understand how it may have spread and any additional control measures required.

The report has also revealed there has been a single case of the iGAS infection reported in Basildon in 2018 and another in Southend in February 2019. 

However, it states there appears to be no direct link between these cases and the cases in mid Essex.

Rachel Hearn, Director of Nursing and Quality, Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Our thoughts are with the families of those patients who have died.

“The NHS in Essex is working closely with Public Health England and other partners to manage this local incident, and extra infection control measures have been put in place to prevent the infection spreading in the area.

“The risk of contracting iGAS is very low for the vast majority of people and treatment with antibiotics is very effective if started early.

"We will continue to work with our partners in Public Health England to investigate how this outbreak occurred and take every possible step to ensure our local community is protected.”

Anyone who is worried can call a Freephone helpline on 03000 032124.

The helpline is open Monday to Friday between 9am to 5pm.

The CCG says it will continue to keep patients updated on the outbreak via its website