5 things to know about the flesh-eating disease tied to invasive strep

Severe strep A infections are on the rise in children, leading to a rise in other diseases associated with strep A, which could include flesh-eating bacteria.

Strep A infections can cause a host of secondary infections such as pneumonia, cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. Strep A is considered the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria, according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends healthcare providers consider invasive strep among patients with ongoing viral respiratory infections. "Illness due to [invasive group A strep] in persons with known viral infections may manifest as persistent or worsening symptoms following initial improvement," a Dec. 22 CDC alert said.

Here are five things to know:

  1. Even with treatment, up to 1 in 5 people with necrotizing fasciitis died from the infection, according to CDC data.

  2. People who have recently had or are currently sick with a viral infection such as flu or chickenpox are at higher risk for strep A invasive infections, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Dec. 30.

  3. Seniors, nursing home residents, people with chronic medical conditions, those with wounds or skin disease, intravenous drug users, homeless people and Native American populations are all also considered to be at higher risk for strep A and invasive infections, according to the Journal-Constitution.

  4. Necrotizing fasciitis can be diagnosed through biopsy, bloodwork or imaging. Early detection is key to treatment, the CDC said.

  5. Diagnosis can take time, but the CDC recommends beginning treatment before receiving test results if a physician believes the patient has necrotizing fasciitis.

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