The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating a possible increase in cases of invasive infections among children in the United States caused by the bacteria known to lead to strep throat. , called group A strep, or group A strep.
“Group A strep has always been a very important pathogen that can cause very serious disease,” Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital on Long Island, New York, told Fox News Digital.
“It is of great concern that we are seeing an increase in severe cases in many places,” added Glatt, who is also a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
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Cases have skyrocketed in Europe and parts of the US.
Here’s a deeper dive into the topic, and what Americans need to know.
Where is the peak in cases?
France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom have reported an increase in cases of invasive group A strep disease since September among children under 10 years of age, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“In France and the United Kingdom, the number of [invasive group A strep] cases observed in children has been several times higher than pre-pandemic levels for the equivalent period of time,” the WHO said recently in a press release on December 12.
In addition, several US hospitals in various states, including Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington, told NBC News that they have seen higher levels of cases of invasive disease caused by the bacteria than in previous years.
The state of Colorado also reported two deaths among young children in the Denver area due to group A strep since November 1.
Dr. James H. Conway, a pediatric infectious disease physician and medical director of the UW Health Kids immunization program, told Fox News Digital that he is also seeing an increase at his practice in Madison, Wisconsin.
“We are seeing an increase in invasive bacterial infections with Streptococcus pyogenes (group A strep) here in our area, primarily following respiratory viral illnesses such as influenza A and RSV,” said Conway, who is also a professor of pediatrics at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. Medicine and Public Health.
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“We have also seen an increase in Streptococcus pneumoniae infections”.
The state of Colorado also reported two deaths among young children from the Denver area due to group A strep since Nov. 1, according to the state health department.
In the past five years, the CDC estimates that approximately 14,000 to 25,000 cases of invasive group A strep disease occurred each year in the United States; Between 1,500 and 2,300 people die annually from invasive group A strep disease.
Deaths in England are among all age groups.
“Unfortunately, so far this season there have been 74 deaths across all age groups in England,” according to a Dec. 15 press release from the UK Health Security Agency.
The statement discussed an unusual increase in scarlet fever and group A strep infections.
“This number includes 16 children under [age] 18 in England”.
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The notice added: “In the 2017-2018 season, there were 355 total deaths during the season, including 27 deaths in children under the age of 18.”
Why an increase in cases?
“The underlying cause of this increase is unknown, which is even scarier,” Glatt noted.
“Serious viral infections like influenza A, RSV and COVID-19 are a trap for secondary bacterial infections,” Conway added.
“They have a negative impact on the immune system, in addition to creating an environment conducive to bacterial replication, with all the airways inflamed and increasing secretions.”
People likely build some immunity from transient contact with group A strep, he added, but the pandemic “probably lowered community immunity in general, just as it appears to have with influenza and RSV for the most part.” of the population”.
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“Fortunately, when recognized early and with immediate appropriate therapy, the results can be quite good, but unfortunately some patients will still succumb despite proper care,” Glatt added.
What is group A strep?
“Group A strep is literally a whole group of bacteria, which can cause many different types of illness depending on the strain,” Conway noted.
Experts advise treating strep throat with antibiotics to prevent kidney involvement and other complications.
Mild cases are considered “non-invasive” such as infections that cause strep throat or skin infections such as scarlet fever or impetigo.
Experts advise treating strep throat with antibiotics to prevent a kidney complication known as post-strep glomerulonephritis and another that affects multiple organ systems, including the heart, joints and central nervous system, known as rheumatic fever.
“Scarlet fever, also called scarlet fever, is characterized by a scarlatiniform rash and usually occurs with strep throat,” according to the CDC website.
Impetigo is a superficial skin infection that looks like a “honey-colored” rash; it usually appears on exposed areas of the body, such as the face, arms or legs, according to the CDC.
What is invasive group A strep?
“Invasive disease means that germs invade parts of the body that are normally free of germs,” the CDC noted on its website.
When group A strep invades deeper parts of the body, this can lead to more serious disease, such as when the bacteria enter the bloodstream or lungs, or deep into the skin, known as necrotizing fasciitis.
Necrotizing fasciitis is known as “the dreaded flesh-eating bacteria,” Conway noted. The patient’s skin will rapidly turn “dark” within 24 to 48 hours, and the “affected tissues progressively [will] darken from red to purple, blue to black,” the CDC noted.
The condition requires antibiotics and often the emergency surgical removal of dead tissue, known as debridement.
The bacteria can also release toxins into deep tissues and into the bloodstream, leading to shock and organ failure (toxic shock).
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The condition often presents with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and muscle aches, but progresses rapidly until the bacteria enter the bloodstream and cause organ failure in a life-threatening condition known as sepsis.
How can we protect children this winter?
“It is important for parents to maximize immune protection by keeping their children up-to-date with influenza viral and COVID-19 vaccines, as well as available routine childhood vaccines against bacteria with Prevnar13, etc,” he said. Conway.
“It’s also important that people who are sick wear masks or stay home to avoid exposing and infecting other people,” he noted.
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Conway advised: “It’s also important to seek medical attention for children who have a high fever, shortness of breath, unusual rashes, among other things.”