The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating a possible rise in invasive infections in children in the United States, caused by bacteria known to cause throat infections, called group A strep — or group strep A
“Group A streptococci have always been a very important pathogen that can cause very serious diseases,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Long Island, New York, told Fox News Digital.
“It’s very concerning that we’re seeing an increase in severe cases in many places,” added Glatt, who is also a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
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Cases have increased across Europe and parts of the US
Here’s a deeper dive into the topic — and what Americans need to know.
Where’s the top of the falls?
France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom have reported an increase in cases of invasive group A streptococcal disease in children under the age of 10 since September, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“In France and the United Kingdom, the number of [invasive group A strep] Cases observed in children were several times higher than before the pandemic for the corresponding period,” the WHO said in a recent December 12 press release.
Additionally, several U.S. hospitals in several states — including Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington — told NBC News they’ve seen more cases of invasive diseases caused by the bacteria compared to previous years.
The state of Colorado has reported two deaths in young children from the Denver area since November due to group A streptococcus.
Dr. James H. Conway, pediatric infectious disease physician and medical director of the immunization program at UW Health Kids, told Fox News Digital that he’s also seeing an increase in his practice in Madison, Wisconsin.
“We are seeing an increase in invasive bacterial infections with Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococci) in our area, primarily following respiratory viral diseases such as influenza A and RSV,” said Conway, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of is medicine and public health.
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“We also saw an increase in Streptococcus pneumoniae infections.”
The state of Colorado has reported two deaths in young children from the Denver area since November due to group A streptococcus, according to the state health department.
The CDC estimates that there have been approximately 14,000 to 25,000 cases of invasive group A streptococcal disease in the United States each year for the past five years; Between 1,500 and 2,300 people die each year from invasive group A streptococcal disease.
Deaths in England come in all age groups
“Unfortunately so far this season in England there have been 74 deaths across all age groups,” read a report dated 12/15 press release from the United Kingdom Health Security Agency.
The press release discussed an unusual increase in scarlet fever and group A streptococcal infections.
“That number includes 16 children under [age] 18 in England.”
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The guide added: “In the 2017-2018 season there were a total of 355 deaths throughout 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 more frightening,” noted Glatt.
“Serious viral infections such as influenza A, RSV and COVID-19 are all prerequisites for secondary bacterial infections,” Conway added.
“They negatively impact the immune system and create an environment conducive to bacterial proliferation, with all the airway swelling and increasing secretions.”
Humans likely generate some immunity from transient exposure to group A streptococci, he added — but the pandemic “probably reduced immunity in the general community, as influenza and RSV appear to have in much of the population.”
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“Fortunately, outcomes can be quite good when caught early and treated with prompt appropriate therapy, but unfortunately some patients still succumb despite appropriate treatment,” added Glatt.
What is Group A Streptococcus?
“Group A strep is literally a whole group of bacteria that can cause many different types of disease, depending on the strain,” Conway noted.
Experts advise treating strep throat with antibiotics to prevent kidney complications and other complications.
The mild cases are considered “non-invasive”, such as B. Infections that cause a sore throat or skin infections such as scarlet fever or impetigo.
Experts advise treating strep throat with antibiotics to prevent a kidney complication known as poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis and another that affects multiple organ systems including the heart, joints and central nervous system – known as rheumatic fever.
“Scarlet fever, also known as scarlet fever, is characterized by a scarlet rash and usually occurs with strep throat,” the CDC website states.
Impetigo is a superficial skin infection that looks like a “honey-colored” rash; It usually occurs on exposed areas of the body, such as the face, arms, or legs, according to the CDC.
What is invasive group A streptococci?
“Invasive disease means that germs have entered parts of the body that are normally germ-free,” the CDC noted on its website.
When group A streptococci invade deeper parts of the body, it can lead to more serious illnesses, such as: B. when bacteria enter the bloodstream or lungs or penetrate deep into the skin, known as necrotizing fasciitis.
Necrotizing fasciitis is known as “the dreaded flesh-eating bacteria,” Conway noted. The patient’s skin rapidly “darkens” and “affected tissues increase” over 24 to 48 hours [will] darken from red to purple to blue to black,” the CDC noted.
The condition requires antibiotics and often emergency surgical removal of dead tissue, known as debridement.
The bacteria can also release toxins into deep tissues and into the bloodstream, which can lead 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 quickly progresses to where 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’s important for parents to maximize immune protection by keeping their children up-to-date with both the viral vaccines for influenza and COVID-19, as well as the available routine child vaccinations against bacteria with Prevnar13, etc.,” Conway said.
“It’s also important that sick people wear masks or stay home to prevent other people from being exposed and infected,” he noted.
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Conway advised, “It’s also important to see a doctor if children have a high fever, trouble breathing, or an unusual skin rash, among other things.”