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Strep A Outbreak Claims Four More Children. Here's What to Know to Stay Safe.

The bacterium is causing severe illness in kids.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

An additional four children have died from Strep A in the United Kingdom, bringing the death toll of children to 30 since mid-September. It's concerning for a number of reasons, one of which is that cases have been spotted in America as well. "In total, 122 people have died in England from the invasive form of the bacterial infection, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data shows," says the BBC. "We are continuing to see a rise in scarlet fever and 'strep throat' and this is understandably concerning for parents. However I would stress that the condition can be easily treated with antibiotics and it is very rare that a child will go on to become more seriously ill," Dr Obaghe Edeghere, the UKHSA incident director said in a statement. "Over the winter, there are lots of illnesses circulating that can make children unwell and so it is important to avoid contact with other people if you are feeling unwell, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue. I would also urge all those eligible for free winter vaccines to take advantage of these." Read on to discover everything you need to know about Strep A and how to stay safe.


Patients Suffer From an Invasive Group A Streptococcal infection


Invasive Group A Streptococcal infection (iGAS) is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, also known as group A streptococcus. These bacteria are found in the throat, skin, and respiratory tract, and can be transmitted through close contact with infected individuals or through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.

iGAS can cause a range of symptoms, depending on the site of infection and the severity of the infection. Some common symptoms of iGAS include fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, and sore throat. In severe cases, iGAS can cause sepsis (a life-threatening response to infection that can lead to organ failure) or necrotizing fasciitis (a rare but serious infection that causes the death of soft tissue).


How iGas is Diagnosed


To diagnose iGAS, healthcare providers may perform a physical exam, order laboratory tests (such as a culture of the infected area), or use imaging techniques (such as x-rays or CT scans) to assess the extent of the infection.

Treatment for iGAS typically involves antibiotics, and may also include hospitalization and supportive care (such as fluids and pain medication). In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove infected tissue.


iGas is More Common in Children


iGAS can affect people of any age, but it is more common in children and older adults. Risk factors for iGAS include having a compromised immune system, being in close contact with an infected person, and having underlying health conditions such as diabetes or chronic lung disease.

There are several reasons why invasive Group A Streptococcal infection (iGAS) may be more common in children.

First, children may be more likely to come into contact with group A streptococcus bacteria, which can be transmitted through close contact with infected individuals or through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Children may be more likely to have close contact with others, such as through school, daycare, or extracurricular activities, which can increase their risk of contracting iGAS.

Additionally, children's immune systems are still developing, which may make them more vulnerable to infection. Children may also be more likely to have underlying health conditions, such as asthma or weakened immune systems, which can increase their risk of iGAS.

Finally, children may be more likely to have certain behaviors that can increase their risk of iGAS, such as poor hand hygiene or difficulty covering their mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing.

Overall, these factors may contribute to the higher prevalence of iGAS in children compared to adults. It is important for parents and caregivers to take steps to protect children from iGAS, such as teaching good hygiene practices and seeking medical attention if a child exhibits symptoms of the infection.


The CDC are Tracking Strep A in America


"CDC is looking into an increase in invasive group A strep (iGAS) infections among children in the United States. iGAS infections include necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome," says the CDC. "We have never seen strep causing so many deaths," said Meena Iyer the Chief Medical Officer at Dell Children's Medical Center to NBC. "We are trying to understand… is it the strain, has the bacteria become more smart and more resistant to treatment, just like we saw with the flu and RSV?"


How to Stay Your Safest


Preventing iGAS involves proper hygiene practices, such as washing hands frequently and covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. People with iGAS should also practice good infection control measures, such as avoiding close contact with others until they have received treatment and are no longer contagious.

"Most winter illnesses can be managed at home and NHS.UK has information to help parents look after children with mild illness. However please do make sure you speak to a healthcare professional if you believe your child is getting worse for instance they are feeding or eating less than normal, are dehydrated, has a high temperature that won't go down, is very hot and sweaty or seems more tired or irritable than normal," said Dr. Edeghere.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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