CDC Explains What Caused The Latest Strep Throat Surge In Kids

Spread primarily through contaminated respiratory particles, strep throat is responsible for anywhere from 20% to 30% of cases of sore throats in young kids, reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Characterized by a sore throat that comes on abruptly, those infected also commonly experience a fever as well as pain when swallowing. Children may present more specifically with symptoms of abdominal pain, headache, nausea, or vomiting.

In a recent statement, the CDC announced that the U.S. is seeing an increase in invasive group A strep cases amongst children that resemble rates of those seen in the years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on 2022 preliminary data, officials believe the surge is likely fueled by the return to daily life pre-pandemic. This is in contrast to previous years when people implemented preventative measures such as masking, social distancing, and quarantining to prevent the spread of illness.

CDC tracking data shows that in 2019, the country saw a total of 25,050 group A strep cases, out of which 2,250 deaths occurred. Although federal data for 2022 has yet to be released, CBS News reports that last year, Andrea Ahneman, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Health, had told the news outlet, "The 2022 year started off with cases lower than might be expected, and is ending with cases being higher than in prior years."

The U.S. is still experiencing an amoxicillin shortage

Arizona is one such state that reports having seen a rise in child strep throat case numbers throughout 2022 and continuing into 2023, via KOLD News 13. As per the Arizona Department of Health Services, the state saw a total of 966 strep cases in 2021 compared to the 1,228 cases reported in 2022. These numbers indicate a 27% increase in infection numbers within one year. Additionally, some counties are seeing a higher case count than others, with Pima County reporting 27 cases detected thus far since the start of 2023.

Dr. Chadi Berjaoui of Carondelet Medical Group in Tucson told KOLD News 13 that the circulation of COVID-19, RSV, and the flu virus have also played a role in the surge. "It's really important that if you have a child who might have a potential strep case to at least talk to your doctor about it and get a thorough evaluation," Dr. Berjaoui told the news outlet. "Because the complications can be pretty severe if not treated appropriately."

While cases of strep throat are often treated with antibiotics to curtail the spread of the virus (via KOLD News 13), the surge in child cases comes amidst a national shortage of amoxicillin that has been in effect since late October 2022, as per the FDA. In the event that a child displays signs of a potential strep throat infection, be sure to consult with their pediatrician for diagnosis and treatment options.