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. Though still rare, health organizations have identified increased rates of invasive group A streptococcal infections in the last several months. To complicate things, there is a shortage of the liquid form of amoxicillin, an antibiotic often given to kids to treat strep throat. But never fret! There are alternative antibiotics that can be used to treat this infection.
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 between December and April. 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 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. This early rise in invasive group A strep infections was earlier than we typically see (this was between September and November) and occurred at the same time as respiratory viruses were highly circulating. We have known for years that people who are co-infected with respiratory viruses are at higher risk of developing a severe illness from strep.
Since that time, invasive group A strep infections have remained high in some areas of the US even after respiratory viruses decreased in those areas. This could be due to the normal pattern of transmission. This is the usual time group A strep is spreading.
To top it off, there is a shortage of liquid amoxicillin. This is one of the most used antibiotics to treat strep throat in kids. This shortage is expected to last for several months, but don’t worry! There are alternatives we can use to treat strep infection. For kids who can swallow and chew pills, amoxicillin pills are still readily available. For kids that can’t swallow pills, amoxicillin tablets can be crushed and capsules can be opened and mixed with liquids or semisolids, like applesauce. There are other antibiotics that can be used too, including injectable antibiotics. If your child’s clinician prescribes liquid amoxicillin and you are unable to find it, talk with them about other options.
Overall, the public health agencies all agree that the risk to the general population posed by invasive group A strep disease is still very 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
News coverage on Invasive Group A Strep: