Invasive Group AStreptococcus (GAS) on the Rise in Parts of the US
Cases of invasive streptococcus A, which declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, have recently begun to increase again. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned last December that cases of invasive streptococcal A were on the rise. The World Health Organization first reported a surge in GAS infections in several countries in the same month. Data from the U.K. show that at the end of 2022, the number of Group A strep infections was nearly three times higher than in the same period over the past five years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told ABC News on Wednesday that the number of invasive streptococcal A disease among U.S. children has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and in some places has even exceeded them.
1. What causes invasive group A streptococcus?
Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a common bacteria that lives on our skin and often in our throat. It can cause different types of infections, the most common being streptococcal pharyngitis. Rarely, it can cause serious infections such as streptococcal toxic shock syndrome or necrotizing fasciitis (a rare bacterial infection). Serious infections occur when group A streptococci invade other parts of the body such as the blood or spinal fluid.
2. How common are invasive group A streptococci?
Invasive group A streptococcus is a dangerous but rare disease that causes about 1,500 to 2,300 deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Invasive group A streptococci are more common in children.
3. How is invasive group A streptococcus treated?
This condition is usually treated in the hospital with intravenous antibiotics and other supportive measures.
The drug used to treat mild to moderate strep infections is amoxicillin, which is in short supply nationwide. If strep is untreated or under-treated, it can lead to invasive group A strep. At this stage, there are no data to suggest a direct link between the shortage of amoxicillin and the surge of cases.
4. What are the most common symptoms of invasive group A strep?
Parents and caregivers should watch for fever, sore throat, difficulty swallowing or a child who is not behaving normally.
Parents should also look for signs of toxic shock syndrome and "flesh-eating" skin infections, which can be signs of an invasive strep infection. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of toxic shock include fever, chills, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting.
Early symptoms of a severe skin infection include rapid skin expansion, severe pain and fever. Later, it may look like blisters, changes in skin color or pus in the infected area.
5.How can a person reduce exposure to invasive group a streptococcus?
Because strep is spread by coughing, sneezing and object surfaces, practicing good hygiene - such as washing hands, object surfaces, plates or cups - can prevent it from spreading.