ED visits for strep hit 5-year high

Emergency department visits for strep throat infections reached a five-year high in February and March, according to unpublished CDC data cited by NBC News in an April 19 report. 

Another report from Epic Research showed that in February, rates of strep throat were nearly 30 percent higher than the previous peak in February 2017, the earliest data provided in the report. The findings are based on emergency room visits at more than 1,100 hospitals and 24,900 clinics in the U.S.

"We're definitely seeing more run-of-the-mill strep throats, without a doubt," Michael Cappello, DO, vice chair of pediatrics at Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., told NBC. A months-long nationwide shortage of amoxicillin has added a layer of frustration for patients, physicians and pharmacists. In March, several pharmaceutical giants said they anticipated more products would become available in April. 

In December, the CDC issued a health advisory to alert the medical community of a rise in severe strep A infections among children. Infections caused by group A strep bacteria are usually mild, though on rare occasions the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause severe infections.

As of April 19, "Many states are continuing to see higher than usual numbers of invasive group A strep cases, particularly in children ages 17 and younger and adults ages 65 years and older," a CDC spokesperson told the news outlet. 

Many physicians have called the rise in severe strep A infections unprecedented. At Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora, for example, there have been about 80 patients with cases of invasive strep from October to March. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were about 20 cases per year. 

Dr. Cappello said he's hopeful invasive cases will start to decline, noting Advocate Children's has seen fewer cases so far in April than in the last few months. 

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