The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is investigating a significant increase in invasive group A strep infections, but the increase may indicate a return to typical pre-pandemic levels.
Much like the flu and RSV, invasive group A strep infections, known as iGAS infections, have been contained with Covid-19 control measures such as masking and social distancing. But in a statement Friday, the CDC said it has now heard from some doctors and state health departments that there is an increase in iGAS infections among children.
“It’s too early to say whether iGAS case numbers have returned to pre-pandemic levels or whether they’ve risen above what we would normally expect based on what we know about seasonal patterns of GAS,” CDC spokeswoman Kate Grusich said in an email.
“Recent increases in respiratory viruses, particularly influenza, may also be contributing 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.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said on Friday that it is monitoring the increase in pediatric hospital admissions caused by group A strep. The increase follows the drop in cases during the pandemic.
“Cases of invasive group A strep are increasing in all age groups, but this fall, it’s particularly evident in pediatric patients,” spokesperson Paul Galloway said in an email.
The department said that since November 1, there have been 11 reported cases of invasive group A strep in children 10 months to 6 years old in the Denver metropolitan area. Galloway said two children died, but the official cause of death has not been determined.
Health authorities in the UK this month advised parents and schools to monitor for strep A infections after several children died.
France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom are reporting increases in iGAS infections and scarlet fever, warning that children under the age of 10 are most at risk, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.
Group A strep can cause many types of infections, some of which are relatively minor. Strep A, or group A streptococcus, is a bacterium found in the throat and skin that usually causes fever and throat infections such as strep throat or scarlet fever.
Invasive group A strep infections, including necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, are less common.
Necrotizing fasciitis is sometimes called flesh-eating disease. It is a rare bacterial infection that spreads rapidly and can be fatal, according to the CDC. Group A strep is thought to be the most common cause.
Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, also known as STSS, occurs when bacteria spread into deep tissues and the bloodstream. “STSS can very quickly turn into low blood pressure, multi-organ failure, and even death,” says the CDC.
Strep A is not fatal for most people infected, and antibiotics are usually effective in treating them.
The CDC says there is no vaccine to prevent strep A infections, and the best way to protect yourself from the bacteria is to wash your hands frequently.
“If someone does get sick from a group A strep infection, timely treatment is important as it can prevent serious illness and complications,” Lara Anton, a spokesperson for the Texas State Health Service, said on Friday. Said.