CDC: Surge in severe strep marked return to pre-pandemic trends

The rise in severe strep A infections that some children's hospitals saw in the last few months of 2022 may mark a return to pre-pandemic levels, the CDC said in a Feb. 2 update. 

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States had very low numbers of [invasive group A strep] infections in children," the CDC said. "This was likely due to the steps many people took during the pandemic to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases. … Based on preliminary 2022 data, iGAS infections in children have returned to levels similar to those seen in pre-pandemic years."

In early December, NBC News reported that at least four children's hospitals were seeing a rise in invasive infections caused by group A strep bacteria. The CDC subsequently issued a health advisory Dec. 22 to alert the medical community of the matter, providing recommendations for healthcare providers. 

CDC data from 2010 through 2020 cited by CBS News shows there was an average of more than 10,000 invasive group A strep infections and more than 1,000 deaths each year. The worst year on record was 2018, according to the data, when more than 25,000 infections and 2,300 deaths were tallied. The CDC has not yet released updated figures for 2022. 

Infections caused by group A strep bacteria are usually mild, though on rare occasions the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause invasive group A strep. Invasive infections can trigger pneumonia, cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. 

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