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Essex grandfather to trek the Pacific Crest Trail for Group B Strep Support

PUBLISHED: 12:01 26 April 2016

Essex fundraiser Andrew Harding pictured with Group B Strep Support's chief executive Jane Plumb

Essex fundraiser Andrew Harding pictured with Group B Strep Support's chief executive Jane Plumb

Archant

An Essex grandfather will embark on a five-month trekking adventure across 2,650 miles of wild terrain to help prevent a life threatening infection, which affects hundreds of newborn babies every year.

Andrew Harding, from Sandon near Chelmsford, sets off on the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada on Thursday hoping to raise thousands of pounds for Group B Strep Support – a national charity supporting new and expectant parents affected by the disease.

Group B strep (GBS) is a preventable infection, which is transferred from the mother to baby during pregnancy and can cause physical and mental disabilities or even death. The charity has been campaigning for mothers carrying GBS to be routinely offered antibiotics at the start of labour, which it says can reduce infections in newborn babies by 80-90%. It has also been urging health leaders to provide more effective testing for all mothers.

Mr Harding, 59, said he was inspired to take up the challenge, which will see him travel through California, Oregon and Washington states, as he wanted to help young mothers “avoid the heartbreak and grief over what should be such a natural and beautiful time”.

“Most group B Strep infections in newborn babies are preventable but it’s still the most common cause of severe infection in newborn babies, including meningitis,” he added. “It causes untold heart-ache, long-term disabilities and even death.

“I’m taking on the huge challenge of thru-hiking the PCT because I want to do what I can to stop this happening to others.

“To help raise awareness and funds for Group B Strep Support is also a privilege, and I very much appreciate the help and support.”

He says he is “excited, impatient and seriously nervous” about starting the challenge, which has been completed by fewer people than Mount Everest.

Group B Strep Support’s chief executive Jane Plumb said: “What Andrew is doing is amazing and we can’t thank him enough – he is raising huge awareness as well as much needed funds for the charity.

“With the money he raises, we can inform more parents and health professionals about group B Strep, which means more of these 
devastating infections in newborns will prevented. He’s a hero.”

Visit www.justgiving.com/AndrewHardingPCT to sponsor Mr Harding.

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