Fourth death this year after children were infected with invasive streptococci

Group A strep is the type of strep that causes most infections. Some strains are particularly aggressive and can lead to sepsis and death in severe cases. The medical journal reported an unusually high number of cases of invasive group A streptococci in children last spring, and that trend appears to be continuing. A total of 369 cases of invasive strep were reported in the general population last year, a figure that has more than doubled this year, according to Public Health Agency statistics. Up to and including June this year, 747 cases have been reported, 85 of which were children under the age of ten. Between the years 2018 and 2022, 0-2 children per year died from invasive streptococci – the corresponding figure for this year is 4. Last week, a 2-year-old boy in Scania died after being infected with invasive streptococci.

Eva Melander, infection control physician in the Skåne region.

Regional infection specialist Eva Melander currently sees mainly two possible reasons for the increase in invasive streptococci.

– Partly this is how streptococci work, the strains are just angrier in certain years. On the one hand, we have a new factor with the pandemic, where we have had less close contact with others and traveled less compared to other years. This probably means that we, especially the youngest children, have not been exposed to the same level of exposure to group A strep as before and have not had time to build up a defense against it, she says.

To prevent infection, the same preventive measures are recommended as for all respiratory infections.

– Good hand hygiene is the basis. If many children at the playgroup are ill with respiratory infections, there is general advice from our infection control doctors, the GGD and the Health and Safety Service about measures to be taken at the playgroup, such as cleaning. But it is not possible to protect yourself 100 percent, says Eva Melander.

Group A streptococci constantly circulate in society and many do not become ill, but are healthy carriers.

– It is normal to get a group A strep infection from time to time, and unfortunately it is not possible to predict who will get a serious infection.

Mild infections can be treated effectively with antibiotics. In more serious cases, it is important to seek medical help quickly, says Eva Melander.

– The bacteria causes many reactions in the body, so both antibiotics and other treatments are necessary to support the heart, lungs and circulation, among other things. But there are usually good terms of dealing with it if you just seek help. It sometimes happens that it does not work.

It is difficult to say what the development will look like in the future. The GGD is satisfied that the number of reported cases is higher this year so far than in the same period last year, but does not yet want to say anything about the near future. Eva Melander can also only guess:

– Given that we’ve just had three pandemic years, it could potentially spill over to this fall, but that’s pure speculation.

Anna Popplewell

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