OIt started as a common bacterial infection that ended with the deaths of fifteen children infected with Strep A in Britain.
Health authorities have issued a warning to parents in the UK as the number of child deaths caused by the infection continues to rise. The latest victim, a five-year-old Irish girl, fell seriously ill last week before dying Monday of complications from strep A.
Although pediatric patients usually have mild symptoms such as fever, swollen tonsils and enlarged lymph nodes, complications can arise when the infection enters the bloodstream, resulting in a life-threatening condition known as invasive strep throat. group A (iSGA).
In the United States, iGAS cases have declined during the pandemic, but the CDC said The Independent on Wednesday that doctors in the United States informed the agency of a possible recent increase, which is now being actively monitored.
Dr. Mark Hicar, pediatric infectious disease expert and associate professor at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said The Independent that it’s hard to say whether the US could see an outbreak similar to the recent one in the UK.
According to CDC data, seven children under the age of 17 per 100,000 in monitored areas died of complications from strep A before the pandemic in 2019.
One death per 100,000 population in monitored areas was reported in 2020, when the last report was published.
The CDC only tracks iGA infections and does not track noninvasive Strep A infections. Only 10 states provided data for iGAS in the most recent report.
“Mitigation measures (e.g. school and workplace closures, masking) used during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have helped reduce the spread of many viruses and bacteria,” said said a spokesperson.
“Now that these germs are spreading again, we could be going back to typical infection patterns for iSGA, including a seasonal increase during the winter months.
What is a strep A infection?
Group A streptococcus is a common bacterial infection, mostly seen in children.
In the most serious and rare cases, the infection causes conditions such as pink and red rashes (scarlet fever), bacterial infection of the skin (impetigo), necrotizing tissue (fasciitis), shock syndrome streptococcal poisoning, pneumonia and sepsis.
However, the majority of group A strep infections have mild flu-like symptoms.
“There are many strains of group A strep and there have been isolated outbreaks in the UK in the past (2015 and 2018),” Dr Hicar said. “…with the previous rise in UK cases, there doesn’t appear to be any effect on US cases, so [whether there will be one now] is hard to say.
Dr Hicar says some strains of the infection can lead to a ‘sandpaper rash’, which usually makes children sicker and is known as ‘scarlet fever’.
“This usually happens with [throat infections or] case of pharyngitis, but may [happen with] impetigo infections as well. This appears to be the form currently reported in the UK,” he said.
He added that immunocompromised children are more at risk when they contract strep A.
“Some children who lack good splenic function or who have other forms of immune depression have a higher risk of sepsis, toxic shock, and necrotizing fasciitis (the flesh-eating group A streptococcal infection). “),” Dr. Hicar said.
The mother of two-year-old Tayden, who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia earlier this year, has been warned by doctors that her daughter could have her transplant delayed after the toddler contracted Strep A last week .
“She was restless and tired the day before her fever,” said Heather, who lives in Utah. The Independent.
Tayden’s symptoms resolved within 48 hours of receiving antibiotics. She should be picked up for her transplant.
Could infections increase after the pandemic?
A CDC spokesperson said The Independent that more data needs to be collected to get a better idea of recent strep A trends in the United States.
“Recent increases in respiratory viruses, particularly influenza, may contribute to a possible increase in iGAS infections. Concurrent or previous viral infections such as influenza and skin conditions such as chickenpox may increase the risk of iGAS infections” , said the spokesperson.
Dr Hicar added that the use of masks does not appear to reduce infections.
“Masks do help with respiratory viruses, like flu and Covid, but other organisms that can linger on surfaces [such as Strep A] tend not to be affected as much by wearing a mask,” he said. “[US] data available from 2020, the first year of the pandemic, appear stable for invasive group A streptococcal infections and death rates.
The CDC estimates that there have been 14,000 to 25,000 cases of iGAS over the past five years and between 1,500 and 2,300 deaths over the same period.
What symptoms should parents watch out for?
According to the CDC, most children infected with strep A will experience pain when swallowing, fever, red and swollen tonsils (sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus), and swollen lymph nodes on the inside. front of the neck.
Dr. Hicar tells The Independent that the sore throat and fever should disappear within a few days. He advised parents to contact their doctor again if symptoms persist.
“If your child has been diagnosed with [Strep A] and seemed to get better, but then got worse, discuss this with your doctor,” he said. “One of those rare, more serious complications can start.”
He recalled that although most cases are not dangerous for children, complications can become fatal if the infection reaches the bloodstream (bacteremia), the lungs (pneumonia) or the brain (meningitis).
How are children infected?
Crowded environments such as schools and daycare centers increase the risk of Strep A infections.
The bacteria is highly contagious and can be spread through respiratory droplets when talking, coughing or sneezing, and through direct contact when patients develop sores on the skin, according to the CDC.
In very rare cases, it can also spread through food when not handled properly.
“As social animals, we are constantly bombarded with bacteria and viruses that our immune systems mostly fend off,” says Dr. Hicar. The Independent.
“…the more exposure [a person] a, the more likely they are to become infected. However, peer interaction and socialization has many benefits.
What should you do if you suspect your child has strep A?
Strep A infections can be diagnosed with a rapid strep test that involves taking a throat swab.
Doctors also administer throat cultures to patients. Although this method takes one to two days, it is more effective than rapid tests.
What is the treatment for strep A?
There is currently no vaccine to prevent Strep A infections.
Antibiotics decrease symptoms and prevent complications and are the most commonly used form of treatment. Once antibiotics are prescribed, patients should begin to feel better within 48 hours.
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