Severe Strep A Infections Rise Among Kids Reported in Four States

Several children’s hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Washington have reported an increased number of cases of invasive strep A infections this season compared to past years.

Group A streptococci are the same bacteria that cause strep throat. These severe and sometimes life-threatening infections occur when bacteria spread to normally germ-free areas of the body, such as the bloodstream.

The pathologist-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Dr. James Versalovic, points out that in the last two months, the hospital, which is the largest pediatric facility in the United States, has recorded around 60 cases, which is a more than fourfold increase in strep A infections compared to the same period last year.

Although the first sign of invasive strep A in many cases is a secondary infection, like lower airway infections like emphysema, some people with invasive group A strep may develop skin conditions like scarlet fever, impetigo, cellulitis or necrotizing fasciitis, or, in rare cases, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome that can lead to organ failure.  

Hearing anecdotes from some doctors of a possible increase in invasive group A strep infections among children in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is in the process of learning more by talking with surveillance sites and hospitals in multiple states.

Although even healthy adults can get invasive strep A, people with chronic illnesses and those over 65 and more susceptible so the reason behind the sudden uptick in cases among children it’s still unclear.

Per the CDC’s opinion, the increased number of cases might be related to the surge of respiratory viruses like flu, RSV, and Covid as well as to the rollback of Covid mitigation measures.

According to Dr. Sam Dominguez, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado and a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine,’ kids who develop severe group A strep infections will often start out with a viral respiratory infection.

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