In Georgia, the state Department of Public Health tracks iGAS infections and on Friday, a spokesperson said the agency was seeing an increase in cases. However, DPH was unable to disclose the number of cases seen recently. According to DPH guidelines, all physicians, labs, and other healthcare providers in Georgia are required by law to report patients with iGAS within seven days.
The spokesperson said additional testing was underway on samples sent to the CDC.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said it was not seeing an increase in the number of patients with group A strep infections, but remained vigilant.
“Children’s recommends that all children and adults get the flu and chickenpox vaccines because group A strep can appear as a secondary infection,” the hospital system said in a statement. “Parents should consult their child’s pediatrician if there is concern about prolonged or delayed onset of fever in respiratory illness.”
Group A Streptococcus bacteria can cause more benign but still painful illnesses, such as strep throat, commonly known as strep throat. Symptoms may include sore throat, pain when swallowing, fever, red and swollen tonsils, and swollen lymph nodes. Children may have symptoms that also include headache, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. People with strep throat may also have a rash, known as scarlet fever.
In contrast, more dangerous iGAS infections “are associated with high mortality rates and require immediate treatment, including appropriate antibiotic therapy,” the CDC said.
British health authorities have been monitoring cases of iGAS, which remain rare there. In early December, authorities reported five deaths recorded within a week of an iGAS diagnosis in children under 10 in England. During the last season when group A streptococcal infections were particularly high, there were four deaths in the same age group during the same period.
Exposure to someone with strep throat puts them at increased risk for iGAS infection, the CDC said. Strep throat is common in school-aged children between the ages of 5 and 15 and typically peaks in the United States from December through April. iGAS cases are especially high when flu levels are high, and this flu season is shaping up to be the worst in at least a decade.
According to the CDC, people who have or have recently had a viral infection such as the flu or chickenpox are at higher risk for iGAS. Elderly people, nursing home residents, people with chronic illnesses, people with wounds or skin conditions, intravenous drug abusers, homeless people, and Native American populations are also considered to be more at risk of iSGA.
The CDC urges parents to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of iGAS and seek prompt medical attention. Here is an overview of the symptoms of the most dangerous complications:
— Necrotizing fasciitis: early symptoms include a rapidly spreading area of red, hot, or swollen skin, severe pain, and fever. Later symptoms may include ulcers, blisters or black spots on the skin, change in skin color, pus or oozing from the infected area, dizziness, fatigue, nausea or diarrhea.
— Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome: The disease begins with fever and chills, body aches, nausea and vomiting. But within 24 to 48 hours, more serious symptoms develop, such as low blood pressure, faster than normal heartbeat, rapid breathing, and organ failure. Kidney failure, for example, can be detected if a person stops producing urine. Liver failure can be detected if they bleed or bruise heavily, and their eyes may turn yellow.
— Cellulitis: Symptoms present as a red, swollen, painful area of skin — usually on the feet and legs — that is warm and tender to the touch. “The skin may look pitted, like the peel of an orange, or blisters may appear on the affected skin. Some people may also develop fever and chills,” the CDC said.
A bacterial iSGA infection in a person who already has a viral infection from another disease may appear in a patient as persistent or worsening symptoms after initial improvement in the disease.
Editor Helena Oliviero and The Associated Press compiled this report
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