TL;DR: Group A streptococcus is a bacteria that can cause infections of the throat and skin. In rare cases, it can lead to serious and invasive diseases like necrotizing fasciitis, toxic shock syndrome, and other severe infections.
Though still rare, the WHO Health Organization, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified increased rates of invasive group A streptococcal infections in the last several months. This increase coincides with an increase in circulation of respiratory viruses. Catching strep while you have a respiratory virus (like flu, COVID-19 or RSV) increases the risk of serious group A strep illness.
Bacteria called group A streptococcus are SUPER common and frequently cause strep throat and skin infections. Strep throat is most common in kids and usually makes the rounds during winter months. Group A strep is spread by coming into close contact with someone who is infected when they cough, sneeze, or by touching a wound. Typically, strep is easily treated with antibiotics and therapies to control symptoms.
Sometimes, group A strep can cause invasive illness, like necrotizing fasciitis (also called flesh-eating disease), bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), and toxic shock syndrome. These infections can be very severe and even life-threatening.
Multiple health organizations around the world have noticed increased rates in invasive group A strep starting in September 2022. The good news is that there is no evidence of a new strain or reports of increased antibiotic resistance. The increase in rates coincides with an increase in respiratory viruses, like influenza, COVID-19, and RSV. We have known for years that people who are coinfected with respiratory viruses are at higher risk of developing a severe illness from strep. People with chickenpox and folks with chronic illnesses are also at higher risk of invasive group A strep disease.
Overall, the public health agencies all agree that the risk to the general population posed by invasive group A strep disease is low (which is reassuring!). Unfortunately, there is no group A strep vaccine, but here are things we can do!
💪 Get vaccinated against influenza and varicella (chickenpox)
👀 Watch out for signs and symptoms that could be from a dangerous infection from group A strep. This can include red, swollen, warm and painful skin that spreads quickly, fever, chills, fast heartbeat, and low blood pressure. Seek medical attention if these symptoms develop.
🙌 Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
🏠 Stay home when sick.
🚿Keeps wounds clean and watch for signs of infection.
🤧 Cover coughs and sneezes.
🧽 Wash utensils, plates, and glasses after they’ve been used by someone who is sick.
😷 Wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of strep and respiratory viruses.
Stay safe. Stay well.
Those Nerdy Girls