Multiple U.S. children’s hospitals have discovered an upsurge in invasive groups A strep infection is a severe and sometimes life-threatening sickness caused by the spread of bacteria to generally germ-free parts of the body, such as the bloodstream.
Children’s hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Washington have informed NBC News that this season has a higher-than-average number of cases.
Two young infants have died in the Denver metropolitan region since November 1, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In that period, eleven cases of severe or invasive strep infections in children under the age of six have been detected in the Denver metropolitan region, according to the department. In a typical year, one or two such pediatric instances are observed in Denver each month.
The pathologist-in-chief at the largest pediatric hospital in the United States, Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Dr. James Versalovic, reported a “more than fourfold increase” in potentially invasive infections in the last two months compared to the same period last year.
Approximately sixty instances were registered at Texas Children’s Hospital between October and November, he said.
Since mid-September, at least 15 children have died in the United Kingdom from invasive group A strep. The U.K. Health Security Agency issued an advisory last week stating that instances typically jump in the new yea but appear to have increased earlier than anticipated.
As per NBC News, On Thursday, the World Health Organization said that instances are increasing in France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Swede, but that the risk to the general public is low.
In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported “hearing anecdotes from some U.S. doctors of a possible increase in [invasive group A strep] infections among children in the United States” and that it is “talking with surveillance sites and hospitals in multiple states to learn more.”
Group A streptococci are the bacteria responsible for strep throat, scarlet fever (a red rash that feels like sandpaper and can resemble a sunburn), and impetigo (red, itchy sores with yellow scabs).
Some persons with invasive strep A may also acquire these illnesses, although in the majority of cases, a secondary infection, such as pneumonia or flesh-eating disease, is the first symptom.
“These are not typical cases of strep throat,” Versalovic stated. An invasive infection can result in the occurrence of the following:
Infections in the lower airways, such as pneumonia or empyema, are characterized by pus pockets in the fluid-filled area around the lungs. Early symptoms of such illnesses include fever, chills, breathing problems, and chest pain.
Infections of the skin, such as cellulitis and necrotizing fasciitis, which are also known as flesh-eating sickness. Both illnesses are characterized by red, hot, puffy, or painful rashes. Rapidly spreading necrotizing fasciitis can develop into sores, blisters, or black patches.
Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome is an immunological response that may result in organ failure. The syndrome is frequently accompanied with fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, or vomiting, followed by a high heart rate or quick breathing.
Anyone, including healthy individuals, can get invasive strep A, but the elderly and those with chronic conditions are more susceptible. It is unclear why hospitals are experiencing an increase in pediatric cases. According to the CDC, it may be related to the rollback of Covid mitigation measures and the increase in respiratory viruses such as influenza, Covid, and RSV.
Dr. Sam Dominguez, an infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital Colorado and a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, stated, “Children who acquire severe group A strep infections typically develop a viral respiratory illness beforehand.”
Many of the recent patients in Denver, according to the Colorado Department of Health, also had a recent viral respiratory illness. Several million cases of noninvasive group A strep are reported annually in the United States, but between 14,000 and 25,000 cases of invasive infections are reported annually, according to the CDC. Between 1,500 and 2,300 people die annually from invasive diseases.
In the past two years, the CDC has reported a decline in such illnesses across all age categories. In the United Kingdom, the latest comparable increase in case numbers was between 2017 and 2018, when 27 children died.
Since late October or early November, the number of cases at Phoenix Children’s Hospital has been increasing, according to Dr. Wassim Ballan, division chief of infectious diseases. However, he stated that the condition is less prevalent than RSV or influenza. “Although we are observing an increase in instances, the absolute number is not astronomical,” Ballan remarked.
Doctors are currently treating children of all ages for invasive group A strep, as opposed to RSV and influenza, which tend to pose the greatest risks to infants and toddlers. “We’ve got teenagers and younger children, a variety of ages.” “Seattle Children’s infectious disease expert Dr. Sara Vora stated.
“Last week, we saw a really ill adolescent with a sepsis presentation who was in the ICU on a ventilator for a few days, then had a fairly rapid recovery and is doing quite well,” Vora continued. “That is possibly the worst example I’ve ever seen.”
However, children’s hospitals in California, New York, Illinois, and Minnesota reported that they had not observed an increase in invasive group A strep.
Dominguez advised parents who are concerned about their children’s health to seek emergency medical care if their children are sleepier or more lethargic than usual, have problems eating or drinking, or are severely dehydrated and not generating urine.
As a general rule, according to Vora, “it’s important to have your child evaluated if he or she is acting strangely, if his or her symptoms are more severe than a typical cold, or if they linger longer than a couple of days.”
It is crucial that children with strep receive prompt treatment so they can begin taking antibiotics such as penicillin. After 24 hours of treatment with antibiotics, a patient is typically no longer contagious. “The sooner suitable antibiotics are administered, the quicker the patient will recover,” Dominguez says.