Dec. 15, 2022 – An outbreak of potentially deadly bacteria in at least four states has federal officials on alert.

The bacteria, called strep A, has  killed 13 children in the United Kingdom. In the United States, cases are up in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Washington, NBC News reported.

The same type of bacteria that commonly causes strep throat can also cause a serious infection type called group A streptococcal (GAS) disease, which can result in flesh-eating disease and toxic shock that sometimes leads to death.

“These are cases beyond an ordinary strep throat,” James Versalovic, MD, PhD, told NBC News.

Versalovic is pathologist-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, the largest pediatric hospital in the U.S. His facility saw 60 cases in October and November, which is "a greater than fourfold increase" compared to the same period last year, according to the outlet.  

The CDC said earlier this month that it is “looking into a possible increase in invasive group A strep (iGAS) infections among children in the United States” and says parents should learn the symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.

Among symptoms to be on the lookout for are:

  • Skin becomes red, warm, swollen, or very painful soon after an injury or surgery
  • Fever and chills, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting, followed 24 to 48 hours later by low blood pressure, increased heart rate, or rapid breathing

Toxic shock can lead to organ failure and death, the CDC says.

“Someone with kidney failure may not make urine,” the agency says. “Someone with liver failure may bleed or bruise a lot, or their skin and eyes may turn yellow.”

Parents should quickly seek medical care if their children show any of these symptoms, the CDC says. Another protective measure is to make sure children are up to date on vaccines, because getting the flu or chickenpox increases the risk of a GAS infection. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

NBC News: “U.S. hospitals report rise in severe strep A infections in kids after 15 deaths in U.K.”

U.K. Health Security Agency: “UKHSA update on scarlet fever and invasive group A strep.”

CDC: “Group A Streptococcal (GAS) Disease.”

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