Strep A Infections Are on the Rise
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Springtime is when cold and flu season winds down, and people begin to look forward to warmer temperatures and better health. There is one seasonal medical condition that lingers from December all the way into April: Group A Streptococcus (Strep A). And it appears to be particularly widespread this year.
What is causing the spread of Group A Strep?
Sarah Flory, MSN, the director of clinical operations for UHealth Clinic at Walgreens and Healthy ‘Canes Clinics, says that strep throat infections are typically higher at this time of year.
A few factors are at play in 2023, fueling the high number of infections.
One major factor is the relaxation of COVID restrictions. The CDC says that, in 2020 and 2021, strep infections decreased by 25% and were the lowest on record for 2- to 17-year-olds since 1997.
“As COVID restrictions have relaxed, we have seen an increase in respiratory infections,” says Flory. “Less masking, increased movement in the community and lax handwashing all play a part in increasing strep cases.”
Strep infections also seemed to begin increasing earlier in the season than usual, even as early as last September. Some levels of infection were higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. And to make matters worse, they seem to be accompanied by other respiratory conditions, such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Strep A is a bacterial rather than viral infection.
It tends to cause a sore throat and fever instead of the typical viral symptoms of a runny nose or cough, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
This time, the symptoms sometimes seem to be vague and atypical. This is also making it more difficult to identify cases of strep.
“Symptoms of sore throat and fever are classic for strep, but children can also exhibit abdominal pain, headache, or nausea and vomiting, which keeps parents guessing as to the cause of the illness,” says Flory.
A shortage of antibiotics is causing problems.
Strep throat is typically treated with an antibiotic known as amoxicillin. Unfortunately, the U.S. has been experiencing a shortage. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that several medications are suitable alternatives to amoxicillin. If you suspect your child may have strep, the best course of action is to visit your pediatrician to determine the proper treatment.
How to prevent and treat strep throat.
Luckily, most cases of strep throat are not severe, but if you notice the signs and symptoms, you’ll want to visit your child’s health care provider for a rapid strep test and the proper course of treatment if strep is detected.
You can also prevent the spread with good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing and avoiding sharing your food or drink.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children can return to school after they’ve had two doses of an antibiotic 12 hours apart without any fever.
Wyatt Myers is a contributing writer for UHealth’s news service.
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