CDC warns of increasing cases of invasive Strep A among children


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that there is an increase in serious infections involving Group A streptococcal bacteria, also known as Strep A, among children.

“There has been a recent increase in pediatric invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) infections,” the CDC said in its health advisory to clinicians and public health officials Thursday, adding that in some cases the increase “occurs in the setting of increased circulation.” respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza viruses, SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses.

While the overall case count remains relatively low and iGAS infections in children are rare, the CDC said it will look into increasing case reports in states including Colorado.

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Strep A is highly contagious, but not usually life-threatening, with the bacteria commonly carried on the nose, throat, and skin of most people. Strep A symptoms are often flu-like and often include “strep throat,” a mild but painful infection. Most people with Strep A recover without any complications.

However, in rare cases cases can develop into infections known as invasive Group A strep (iGAS), which can be fatal with the greatest risk among children and the elderly.

It occurs when bacteria penetrate deeper into the body and infect the lungs, muscles and bloodstream, potentially causing more serious diseases such as blood infections, endocarditis (an infection of the heart’s inner lining), and meningitis.

At least two children have died from iGAS in Colorado, as have 21 children in the United Kingdom.

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Streptococcal bacteria is spread by coughing, kissing, sneezing, and touching an infected or carrier person. Outbreaks are more common in facilities where close contact is common, such as schools and nursing homes.

According to health experts, teaching children good handwashing hygiene, covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer before eating and at other times can help prevent spread.

There is no strep A vaccine available. Most cases are treated with a course of antibiotics.

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“Getting up-to-date on COVID-19, flu, and chickenpox vaccines can help your child develop complications from group A strep infection,” said Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). in a statement this month.

“Stay at home and practice good hand hygiene when you are sick … Call the doctor if your child shows any new signs of illness or worsens.”

In its most recent advisory, the CDC recommended that the public learn about the symptoms of serious infections caused by Group A Strep, including necrotizing fasciitis, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, and cellulitis, and seek medical attention immediately if they think they are affected.

Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment reported an increase in cases of iGAS ages 10 months to 6 years in November — but the department stressed that anyone of any age can get group A strep.

In Minnesota, health officials said they saw 46 cases of invasive strep A of all ages in November; this is more than double the average of 20 cases in previous months. Texas Children’s Hospital said it saw more than 60 patients with invasive strep A in October and November — a fourfold increase from the same period the previous year.

Cases are also spreading in Europe. France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom have all reported cases, and children under the age of 10 are most affected, according to the World Health Organization.

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“Advanced surveillance activities have been implemented in countries reporting an increase in iGAS cases,” he said this month. “Other countries have been given a warning to be alert to a similar increase in cases and notify WHO of any unexpected national or regional incidence of iGAS infections.”

According to WHO, the disease is responsible for more than 500,000 deaths annually worldwide. Overall, however, the public health agency said the risk to the general population remains “low.”

The UK’s Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) reported this week that the UK has reported 94 deaths from the invasive Strep A across all age groups, including 21 children, with “a higher number of cases than seen in a typical year”. At least two people died in France as well.

Ariana Eunjung Cha and Jennifer Hassan contributed to this report.

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