Government data shows Canada is seeing an increase in streptococcal A infections in the midst of a respiratory virus season, with the invasive disease leading to hospitalizations and deaths in some children. There is.
“Early data indicates that iGAS disease activity in 2023 is higher than before the pandemic, particularly in children under 15 years of age,” the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said in an emailed statement. told Global News.
Invasive group A streptococcus (iGAS) has been collectively identified as a priority for surveillance and control by federal, state and territory governments and must be reported to public health authorities, PHAC said.
iGAS occurs when bacteria causes a deeper infection and is isolated from a normally sterile body part, such as blood, officials said.
Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Center, says respiratory viruses such as influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause streptococcal A infections. He said that it could increase the chances of getting infected.
Strep infections on the rise in B.C.
Streptococcus A is a bacteria that lives on the skin and throat and can cause a variety of illnesses in children and adults. Infection occurs through direct contact with infected skin wounds or respiratory fluids when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
“When your body is fighting off one of these viral infections, you can get a second infection on top of it because your immune system is temporarily weakened,” Conway says. said in an interview with Global News.
According to PHAC, iGAS is endemic in Canada, with 2,000 to 3,000 cases reported each year in recent years.
“I don’t think the concerns are all that different from last year or the year before,” he said.. Dominque Merz is director of infectious diseases at McMaster University. “Invasive streptococcal A infections remain rare, but the number of cases is definitely on the rise,” he said in an interview with Global News.
In which areas are the number of streptococcal type A infections increasing?
British Columbia health officials recently warned that the province is experiencing “higher levels” of invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) infections than historical average, particularly in children.
Joint statement On Dec. 22, there were 51 cases of group A streptococcal infections among people under 20 years of age, according to a statement from the provincial Department of Health Services, BC Center for Disease Control and BC Children’s Hospital.
This is more than double what health authorities expected, which predicted only 20 people would be infected in 2022.
Last month, a four-year-old Winnipeg girl died after battling an invasive group A strep infection. According to the GoFundMe page It was established to raise funds for the family.
Group A Streptococcus (GAS) and invasive Group A Streptococcus (iGAS) infections are also on the rise in Alberta, according to an Alberta health spokesperson.
A total of 739 iGAS cases were reported to Alberta Health last year, the majority of them in adults, a spokesperson said. This represents a 41% increase from 2022. 434 iGAS cases were reported.
Increase in type A streptococcal infections in children
Dr. Heather Morrison, PEI’s chief public health officer, told Global News in an email that Prince Edward Island is seeing an increase in invasive group A streptococcal infections, primarily among adults.
Get the latest Health IQ news. Sent to your email every week.
A total of 28 iGAS cases were reported in 2023, compared with 0 to 11 cases per year.
In Nova Scotia, the incidence of invasive group A streptococcal disease (iGAS) is increasing in all age groups starting in 2022.
NS Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Carrera Perrault told Global News that 94 iGAS cases were reported in 2023, with the highest incidence among the oldest and youngest people. Told.
The rate for 2023 was also higher than the previous five years, she said.
According to the latest information, 303 invasive streptococcal type A infections were reported in Ontario between October 1 and November 30, 2023. State data was released Dec. 14.
During that period, 13 children aged 1 to 4 years and 9 children aged 5 to 12 years were admitted for iGAS. Three people under the age of 18 also died.
A report from Public Health Ontario said the number of infections in November was down compared to October, but up compared to the same period last year.
Global News reached out to all states, but no other states had responded by the time of publication.
Health matters: Canada’s public health agency studies seasonality of COVID-19 infections
What are the symptoms of streptococcus type A?
Group A Streptococcus is a bacteria that can cause a variety of illnesses in people of all ages.
Most illnesses are mild, with non-invasive infections causing symptoms such as fever, sore throat, skin rash, sores, bumps and blisters. According to PHAC.
Dr. Earl Rubin, head of pediatric infectious diseases at Montreal Children’s Hospital, said strep throat, or pharyngitis, is “much more common” in children than adults.
Considering that the symptoms of type A streptococcal infection overlap with those of respiratory viral infections, parents should be on the lookout for a new runny nose, nasal congestion, or sore throat accompanied by fever without cough. He said that there is.
“If someone has a sore throat that started within a day or two, a fever, and all the other cold symptoms at the same time, it’s not strep, it’s viral.”
As streptococcal A infections are on the rise, what signs should parents watch out for?
Jimmy Kimmel threatens to sue Aaron Rodgers over ‘nonsense’ Epstein list allegations
Olympic cyclist dies after being hit by car, husband charged: Report
Skin infections caused by GAS can be benign, causing a scab or ooze, but children and adults generally “don’t feel too sick,” Rubin added.
In rare cases of invasive infection, patients can experience severe symptoms such as pneumonia and toxic shock syndrome, which can cause dangerously low blood pressure, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Rubin said the most serious illness caused by invasive group A streptococcus is necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating disease, which destroys skin and muscle tissue.
All forms of invasive disease are “obvious to parents” and parents should seek medical attention.
According to PHAC, people with skin injuries such as cuts, chickenpox, or burns, people with chronic illnesses, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for streptococcal A infection.
Streptococcus type A bacteria can easily spread in homes or in closed environments such as classrooms or daycare centers.
“People who spread the germs don’t necessarily have symptoms, because you could just be a carrier of the germs,” Merz says.
Although there is no vaccine available for strep A, Conway said it’s important to get vaccinated against respiratory viruses such as coronavirus and influenza “to reduce the chance of serious infection.” Ta.
Experts recommend practicing good hand hygiene by washing your hands and using hand sanitizer.
Health issues: Decline in childhood vaccinations and concerns about streptococcus A
Antibiotics are an effective treatment for treating both invasive and non-invasive Streptococcus A.
Streptococcus A is “uniformly 100 percent susceptible to penicillin,” making the infection very easy to treat, Rubin said.
There are many alternatives for people allergic to penicillin, but group A streptococcus is “sensitive to all of them.”
If you are diagnosed with GAS, PHAC advises you to stay home for 24 hours after starting antibiotics to prevent others from getting sick.
Rubin said a person is usually no longer infectious to others 18 hours after antibiotic treatment.
If your child experiences shortness of breath, progressive fatigue, or a high fever that doesn’t improve with acetaminophen, they should talk to their health care provider, Conway said.
Strep A infections occur throughout the year and can increase or decrease over time, Rubin said.
He told Global News in an interview that an increase in the incidence of easily transmitted infections such as group A streptococcus is typically expected at this time of year.
Conway said streptococcal A can be a “serious secondary infection” in addition to respiratory viruses, which have their own seasons, and Canada is currently in the middle of one. Stated.
Referring to data from Ontario, Merz said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, strep A had “some degree of seasonality,” but respiratory diseases such as influenza did. He said it was not at the level seen in the disease.
“It is very difficult to predict what will happen over the next few months. Will we see an increase like we have seen in the past into the spring, or will we see an increase considering we saw an increase last summer? “It’s the same level of seasonality right now,” he said.
— With files from Global News’ Katherine Ward and The Canadian Press