Why The CDC Is Concerned About A Surge In Strep A Infections Among Kids

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is closely monitoring a potential increase in invasive group A strep (iGAS) infections that could result in necrotizing fasciitis or streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. Since November 1, Colorado had 11 cases of iGAS in children under 6 years old. Two of the children died, although the medical examiner hasn't finalized the cause of death (via the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment). The Minnesota Department of Health reported twice as many iGAS cases in November than in other months. The World Health Organization is also concerned about the rise in iGAS cases in France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. They've also seen an increase in iGAS deaths among children under 10.

Experts are still trying to determine if the increased cases of group A strep (iGAS) are similar to pre-pandemic levels, according to CNN. iGAS can cause strep throat or scarlet fever. Over the past several years, COVID measures such as masking and social distancing staved off the flu, strep, and RSV. The Health Services Administration in the UK has seen 7,750 cases of scarlet fever this year compared to 2,538 cases this time last year. However, the 2017-2018 season saw more than 30,000 cases in total.

How group A strep spreads

Although group A strep typically isn't fatal, it is believed to be the cause of the invasive group A strep (via CNN). This rare infection can lead to necrotizing fasciitis or "flesh-eating disease," or the bacteria can infect the deep tissues and bloodstream, leading to streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. These can be fatal. 

Because the flu or chickenpox can increase the risk of these infections, the CDC recommends that children receive their flu and chickenpox vaccines. There is currently no vaccine to protect against group A strep. Group A strep is typically treated with antibiotics, but there is currently a shortage of liquid antibiotics that usually treat children. However, there may be other antibiotic medications your doctor can prescribe.

Australia's Department of Health and Aged Care says that group A strep spreads through respiratory droplets in the air. You can become infected if you breathe these droplets or touch a surface with them and then touch your mouth or nose. You can also get sick if you drink from the same cup as an infected person or share cutlery. You can prevent your risk of infection by washing your hands and surfaces around your house, particularly door handles and sink taps.