"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

After pandemic lull, severe streptococcal infections are increasing again

June 21, 2023 – Severe group A streptococcal infections are increasing in countries all over the world. including the United Statesin response to recent data from the CDC.

Group A Streptococci normally cause mild illnesses similar to strep throat and scarlet fever. But they may cause more serious illnesses similar to flesh-eating necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, often called invasive group A streptococcal infections.

These infections fell by 25% through the COVID-19 pandemic and were particularly low amongst children. The variety of milder infections also fell. But in 2022, severe infections fell sharply again, especially amongst children.

Infections increased earlier within the winter/spring period – September to November – than in a typical yr and reached higher levels than before the pandemic in lots of parts of the country, similar to Colorado and Minnesota.

Now, in 2023, invasive infections remain high amongst children in some parts of the country, even after respiratory viruses similar to influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have declined in those areas. Some parts of the country have also seen high rates of invasive infections amongst older adults.

Less severe streptococcal A infections in children have returned to levels similar or higher than in pre-pandemic years.

An identical resurgence of invasive infections after the pandemic has been observed in other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Denmark.

While group A strep throat may be very common and causes only mild or no symptoms in most individuals, severe infections are often quite rare. They are likely to affect essentially the most vulnerable people: those that are already infected with one other virus, have multiple chronic illnesses, or have an open wound.

If you could have a strep throat infection, it's best to look ahead to fever, headache, or confusion, as these may indicate a more serious illness.