Several children’s hospitals in the United States have detected an increase in invasive group A streptococcal infections. It is a serious and sometimes life-threatening disease that occurs when bacteria spread to normally sterile areas of the body, such as the bloodstream.
Children’s hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington told NBC News that they are seeing more cases than average this season compared to previous years.
Dr. James Versalovic, chief pathologist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, said his facility — the largest children’s hospital in the United States — has seen a “more than four-fold increase” in potentially invasive infections in the past two months. said. Same time last year.
Texas Children’s recorded about 60 cases in October and November, he said.
At least 15 children have died in the UK from invasive group A streptococcus since mid-September. said in last week’s recommendation The cases tend to rise sharply in the new year, but it seems to have spiked sooner than expected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, said it “has heard anecdotes from some US doctors that the number of cases may rise.” [invasive group A strep] Infection among children in the United States” and “we are in talks with monitoring sites and hospitals in multiple states to learn more.”
Group A streptococci, the same bacteria that cause streptococcal pharyngitis, cause scarlet fever (a red rash that feels like sandpaper and resembles a sunburn) and impetigo (a red, itchy rash with yellow scabs). It also causes skin conditions such as scars.
Some people with invasive group A streptococcus may also develop these conditions, but often the first sign of invasive group A streptococcus is a secondary infection such as pneumonia or carnivorous disease. .
“These are cases that go beyond the usual streptococcal pharyngitis,” said Versalovic.
Invasive infections can cause:
- A lower respiratory tract infection, such as pneumonia or empyema, characterized by pockets of pus in the fluid-filled spaces around the lungs. Early signs of such infections include fever, chills, difficulty breathing, and chest pain.
- Skin infections such as cellulitis and necrotizing fasciitis are also known as cannibalism. Both conditions include a red, warm, swollen, or painful rash. Necrotizing fasciitis spreads quickly and may turn into ulcers, blisters, or dark spots.
- Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome, an immune response that can lead to organ failure. The condition often begins with fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea or vomiting, and a rapid heart rate and breathing.
Anyone can be infected with invasive streptococcus A, including healthy adults, but people over the age of 65 and those with chronic diseases are more susceptible. It is not yet clear why hospitals are seeing an increase in cases, especially among children. The CDC says this may be related to his rollback of Covid mitigation measures and the surge in respiratory viruses such as influenza, Covid and RSV.
Sam Dominguez, Ph.D., infectious disease specialist at Colorado Children’s Hospital and professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said:
America record millions Noninvasive group A streptococci occur each year, but invasive infections are rare, about 14,000 to 25,000 cases per year, according to the CDC. Between 1,500 and 2,300 people die each year from invasive infections.
The CDC says it has observed a decline in such infections in all age groups over the past two years.
In the UK, 27 children died from HIV in 2017-2018, with a corresponding spike in cases.
At Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the number of cases has been increasing since late October or early November, said Dr. Wasim Balan, head of the infectious diseases department. But he said the condition is rare compared to respiratory syncytial virus and influenza.
“We know that this is an increase in the number of cases, but the absolute numbers themselves are not that great,” Baran said.
Unlike respiratory syncytial virus and influenza, which tend to pose the most serious threat to very young children, doctors say they are now treating children of all ages for invasive group A streptococci.
“We have kids of all kinds, from teenagers to young children,” says Dr. Sarah Vola, an infectious disease specialist at Seattle Children.
“We had a pretty sick teenager come in last week, he came in with symptoms of sepsis, was in the ICU on a ventilator for a few days, then recovered pretty quickly and is doing very well,” Vora added. rice field. The most serious case I’ve seen. “
However, children’s hospitals in several other states (California, New York, Illinois, Minnesota) said they had not detected an increase in invasive group A streptococci.
Dominguez says parents who are concerned about their child’s health should know if their child is more sleepy or lethargic than usual, has trouble eating or drinking, or is excessively dehydrated and urinating. If not, you should consider seeking emergency medical care.
As a general rule, Vora said, “If your child isn’t behaving correctly, has symptoms worse than a common cold, or has symptoms that last more than two days, it’s worth getting tested.” suggesting.
It is important that children with streptococcus receive treatment as soon as possible so that they can start taking antibiotics such as penicillin.
“The sooner you get the antibiotics right, the quicker you’ll recover,” Dominguez said.
fix (December 15, 2022, 11:00 AM ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the name of a lower respiratory tract infection. Empyema, not emphysema.