Hospitals in several states are on high alert due to a reported increase in cases of life-threatening strep A infections among children.
The bacteria known as Group A Streptococcus (GAS) or Strep A are commonly found in the throat and the skin. These bacteria can cause many different infections, according to CDC.
These infections range from minor illnesses to very serious and deadly diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating an increase in invasive group A strep (iGAS) infections among children in the United States.
Several U.S. children’s hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Washington have observed an uptick in cases of invasive Group A (iGAS), which sometimes cause “life-threatening illness when bacteria spread to areas of the body that are normally germ-free, such as the bloodstream,” according to NBC.
In the UK, the bacteria has killed nineteen kids as the outbreak spreads.
Children’s hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington told NBC News they are seeing higher-than-average numbers of cases this season compared to past years.
Dr. James Versalovic, the pathologist-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, said his facility — the largest pediatric hospital in the U.S. — has seen “a greater than fourfold increase” in potentially invasive infections in the last two months compared to the same period last year.
Texas Children’s recorded around 60 cases in October and November, he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, said it is “hearing anecdotes from some U.S. doctors of a possible increase in [invasive group A strep] infections among children in the United States” and is “talking with surveillance sites and hospitals in multiple states to learn more.”
Anyone can get invasive strep A, including healthy adults, but people over 65 and those with chronic illnesses are more susceptible. It is not yet clear why hospitals are seeing an uptick in cases among kids in particular. The CDC said it may be related to the rollback of Covid mitigation measures and the surge of respiratory viruses like flu, Covid and RSV.
Learn more about Strep A via Health.ny:
How are group A streptococci spread?
These bacteria are spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges of an infected individual or with infected skin lesions. The risk of spread is greatest when an individual is ill, such as when people have strep throat or an infected wound. Individuals who carry the bacteria but have no symptoms are much less contagious. Treatment of an infected person with an appropriate antibiotic for 24 hours or longer eliminates contagiousness. However, it is important to complete the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed. Household items like plates, cups and toys do not play a major role in disease transmission.
What is invasive group A streptococcal disease?
Invasive GAS disease is a severe and sometimes life-threatening infection in which the bacteria have invaded parts of the body, such as the blood, deep muscle and fat tissue or the lungs. Two of the most severe, but least common, forms of invasive GAS disease are called necrotizing fasciitis (infection of muscle and fat tissue) and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (a rapidly progressing infection causing low blood pressure/shock and injury to organs such as the kidneys, liver and lungs). Approximately 20 percent of patients with necrotizing fasciitis and 60 percent with STSS die. About 10-15 percent of patients with other forms of invasive group A streptococcal disease die.
What are the early signs and symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome?
Early signs and symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis include fever, severe pain and swelling, and redness at the wound site. Early signs and symptoms of STSS may include fever, dizziness, confusion, low blood pressure, rash and abdominal pain.
Can invasive group A streptococcal disease be treated?
Group A streptococcus bacteria can be treated with common, inexpensive antibiotics. Penicillin is the drug of choice for both mild and severe disease. For penicillin-allergic patients with mild illness, erythromycin can be used, although occasional resistance has been seen. Clindamycin may be used to treat penicillin-allergic patients with more severe illness and can be added to the treatment in cases of necrotizing fasciitis or STSS. Certain other antibiotics also are effective. In addition to antibiotics, supportive care in an intensive care unit and sometimes surgery are necessary with these diseases. Early treatment may reduce the risk of death although, unfortunately, even appropriate therapy does not prevent death in every case.
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