US hospitals see rise in invasive strep A infections behind 15 UK deaths

At least four children's hospitals in the U.S. are seeing an increase in severe strep A infections, NBC News reported Dec. 14. 

The infections are caused by group A strep bacteria and while most are mild, 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. 

Children's hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington told NBC they're seeing higher numbers of severe cases this year compared to past years, and the CDC told the news outlet it is hearing anecdotal reports from some physicians "of a possible increase in [invasive group A strep infections among children in the United States" and is "talking with surveillance sites and hospitals in multiple states to learn more." 

At least 15 children in the U.K. have died from invasive group A strep since September. 

Texas Children's Hospital in Houston said it recorded about 60 cases of potentially invasive infections in October and November, "a greater than fourfold increase" compared to the same period last year, James Versalovic, MD, PhD, pathologist-in-chief at the hospital, told the news outlet. 

Even though some hospitals are seeing an uptick, physicians told NBC the absolute number of invasive A strep cases being seen isn't comparable to the reach of the flu or respiratory syncytial virus. The CDC said it is still looking into why severe group A strep infections are particularly affecting kids right now, given anyone can develop an invasive infection, though believes it may be related to the current surge in respiratory viruses.

"Oftentimes, kids who develop severe group A strep infections will start out with having a viral respiratory infection," Sam Dominguez, MD, infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora, told NBC

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