January 27, 2023

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Israel on Alert for Streptococcus after 151 Kids Die in UK

3 min read

The Health Ministry in Israel has raised concerns about Streptococcus, as the bacteria has resulted in deaths of 29 children in the United Kingdom.

Commonly known as strep, the bacteria causes flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat. However, in rare cases, it is known to become invasive, as it starts growing in other organs, or blood, thereby triggering a number of conditions.

The bacteria

Some of the conditions it can cause include scarlet fever, meningitis, toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis, which is a flesh-eating syndrome.

These diseases can lead to severe illness, or result in death. The streptococcus bacteria has been classified into different ‘groups’ by scientists.

But, those who get infected are unable to distinguish between them. Currently, the concern is about Group A, which was formerly referred to as streptococcus pyogenes.

There was a recent announcement from the World Health Organization (WHO) about an increase in morbidity due to the invasive infections that Strep A was causing, but it did not clarify the reason behind it.

The announcement from the WHO was made based on the reports it had obtained from five countries, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Ireland, France and the Netherlands.

The numbers

On Friday, Australia reported that two children had lost their lives to the bacteria. As for the UK, it reported that the total number of deaths, including both adults and children, stood at 151.

These deaths have occurred since September due to Strep A infection and it is believed that the bacteria is still spreading.

The number of 29 children losing their lives in the UK to the bacteria is already higher than the number from 2017 and 2018, when it had been just as intense.

On Monday, the Israeli Health Ministry’s epidemiology team had written to doctors, informing them about monitoring the bacteria and wanted to alert medical teams of the same.

Israel’s Health Ministry

The Health Ministry warned that previously rare strains of strep A were rising and their invasive morbidity had also gone up.

It also said that during the peak of the pandemic, strep A cases had declined, but had risen in the second half of 2021 and had been high throughout last year.

The chair of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians and epidemiologist at Hebrew University, Prof. Hagai Levine that parents did not need to panic, but called for vigilance.

He said that similar to other conditions like RSV, flu, COVID-19 pandemic and others, parents should be vigilant for this one as well.

He also noted that medical authorities should also be focused on creating awareness, surveillance and monitoring, as it is possible to treat invasive strep A with antibiotics if it is caught in time.

The recent announcement from the World Health Organization (WHO) disclosed that there had not been any reports of increasing antibiotic resistance in strep A cases.

Therefore, doctors are optimistic that they can quash the rising infections with the use of antibiotics. Parents should note that the bacteria can spread through skin contact, coughs and sneezes.

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