2 Children Die After Invasive Group A Strep Infection; CDC Flags ‘Possible Increase’ in US Cases

2 Children Die After Invasive Group A Strep Infection; CDC Flags ‘Possible Increase’ in US Cases
A podium with the logo for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta in a file photograph. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Two children recently died in Colorado after they were reported to have invasive group A strep (Streptococcus), a bacterial infection, following a recent announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) flagging a “possible increase” in such infections among children in the United States.
“CDC is looking into a possible increase in invasive group A strep (iGAS) infections among children in the United States. iGAS infections include necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome,” the announcement, last updated on Dec. 7, reads.

Colorado state officials later announced that 11 children in the Denver metro area had been reported to have been infected with invasive group A strep since Nov. 1.

Two of the 11 children have since died, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said in a statement on Dec. 15. The official causes of death of the two young children, who were not yet school-aged, have not been finalized by a coroner or medical examiner, the department stated.

The 11 cases range in age from 10 months to 6 years, but “anyone of any age can get group A strep,” the department stated.

According to NBC News, several children’s hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Washington have also recently reported higher-than-average numbers of invasive group A strep infections this season compared to past years.

What Is Group A Strep?

Group A strep is a bacterium that can commonly cause a sore throat (also referred to as strep throat), scarlet fever, and other infections such as tonsillitis, pharyngitis, impetigo, and cellulitis.

Invasive infections occur when the bacteria move beyond the throat or skin and reach deeper into the body such as the bloodstream, lungs, and spinal cord.

Invasive group A strep infections, which are more severe and can kill, can cause diseases including pneumonia, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, and necrotizing fasciitis.

“While they remain rare, CDPHE is seeing invasive group A strep infections in Colorado that cause severe illness,” Colorado state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said in a Dec. 15 statement.

“There is no vaccine for group A strep, but keeping up to date on vaccines for COVID-19, flu, and chickenpox can help protect your child from developing complications from a group A strep infection,” she said.

“Stay home when you are sick and practice good hand hygiene—regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and avoid touching your face. Call your child’s doctor if they are experiencing new or worsening symptoms of an illness.”

Symptoms of group A strep may include sore throat, fever and chills, new rashes, skin bumps, or red patches of skin that may be painful, per the CDPHE. The department stated that some severe group A strep infections can be secondary to common respiratory infections such as respiratory syncytial virus, flu, or COVID-19, and that early treatment is “critical” to preventing the condition from progressing to more serious illness.

The CDC recommends that parents learn about symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, and seek medical care quickly if they suspect their child has one of these infections.

Multiple Countries Seeing More Cases: WHO

The World Health Organization on Dec. 12 announced that a number of countries have been seeing more cases of invasive group A strep.

“A number of European countries (including France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) have indicated an increase in 2022, particularly since September, in the number of cases of invasive Group A streptococcal (iGAS) disease among children under 10 years of age,” the WHO stated.

“During the same period, several deaths associated with iGAS disease in children under 10 have also been reported, including from France, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

“In France and the United Kingdom, the number of iGAS cases observed in children has been several-fold higher than pre-pandemic levels for the equivalent period of time.”

According to the WHO, it is “likely” that the increase in iGAS in children is also associated with the recent increase in other cases of respiratory viruses, because “coinfection of viruses with GAS may increase the risk of iGAS disease.”

Mimi Nguyen Ly covers U.S. and world news.
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