Strep A linked to 2 US pediatric deaths; Europe is also seeing increases | Popgen Tech
ACROSS AMERICA – Public health officials are monitoring a rare, invasive form of the usually mild and common bacteria known as group A strep that has been linked to at least two U.S. pediatric deaths. The development comes because the antibiotics to treat the infection are in short supply.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a possible increase in invasive group strep A infections, which have killed between 1,500 and 2,300 people a year in the past five years, the agency said.
Group A streptococcal bacteria, or iGAS, are highly contagious and are commonly carried by humans in the nose, throat and skin. This usually causes a sore throat and can be treated with the liquid antibiotic amoxicillin suspension; however, a shortage of this drug is expected to last for several months. Alternative therapies are available.
In its invasive form, strep A can enter the bloodstream, lungs, spinal cord and other places within the body where the bacteria would not normally live, leading to diseases such as pneumonia, endocarditis (an infection of the heart’s inner lining), meningitis , urinary tract infections, sepsis, the serious skin and tissue infection necrotizing fasciitis, and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, which causes low blood pressure and injury to organs such as the kidneys, liver and lungs.
Parents whose children show invasive group A strep symptoms should contact their doctors. Those symptoms include:
- A fever 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher;
- Severe muscle pains;
- Localized muscle tenderness; and
- Redness at the site of a wound.
There is no vaccine for group A strep, but keeping children informed about vaccines for flu, COVID-19 and chickenpox can help protect them from serious illness, Dr. Colorado State Epidemiologist Rachel Herlihty said in a news release. In her state, since November 1, 11 cases of invasive group strep A have been reported in children.
The state has not seen a pediatric death from group A strep since 2018
Health officials in Minnesota also issued an urgent group A strep advisory, saying the number of cases reported so far in November (46) was more than double the number in other months this year.
Infections are also on the rise in Europe, with health officials in Great Britain saying Thursday that strep A infections have been linked to the deaths of 74 people, including 16 children.
The World Health Organization said on Thursday that increases in invasive group A strep were also reported in France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden, mostly among children under 10.
Health officials are not sure what is causing the increase in invasive A strep infections. CDC spokeswoman Kate Grusich told CNN in an email that the agency has not determined whether group A strep infections are returning to normal pre-pandemic levels or if something else is at work.
“The recent increases in respiratory viruses, particularly influenza, may also contribute to a possible increase in iGAS infections,” Grusich said. “Concurrent or preceding viral infections such as influenza and skin conditions such as chicken pox may increase the risk for iGAS infections.”
Those at greatest risk for serious group A strep infections are the very young and old, as well as people with existing health conditions that reduce immunity to infection, including cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and steroids, according to health officials. The bacteria is spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing and touching.
“The rates of iGAS are highest at extreme ages — in children and the elderly,” Michael Marks, an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told The Washington Post. “This is not fully understood, but may reflect immunity.”