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Facts not fear: Hampton Roads doctor shares guidance on invasive strep infections

The CDC announced a "possible increase" of invasive Group A strep infections among children across the U.S.

NORFOLK, Va. — Health leaders across the country want to know what’s next for a rare, but still-serious diagnosis.

This December, the Centers for Disease Control announced it’s looking into a "possible increase" of invasive group A strep (iGAS) infections in kids across the country.

“These invasive infections can gain access through the skin, cuts and scrapes, children with eczema," said Dr. Douglas Mitchell, the medical director for the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters (CHKD) Medical Group.

Both strep throat and invasive strep infections come from the same type of Group A streptococcus bacteria. 

However, invasive infections carry an elevated risk for a severe bodily response and intensive medical care.

“The difference is, it's becoming invasive, more than just mucus and throat, it's gaining access into tissues and blood streams," Mitchell said.

The frequency of these cases are rare, but can be life-threatening. Two examples of iGAS infections are necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. 

Data from the Virginia Department of Health shows the incidence rate of necrotizing fasciitis is between 0.08 to 0.13 per 100,000 per year, with a case fatality rate of 10%. 

"They [would] need IV antibiotics, hospital care, other therapies. They are a worrisome disease but they don’t occur in asymptomatic people," he said. 

Mitchell noted the CDC's announcement comes as an acknowledgment that incidents are up more than what its seen in the years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's unclear at this moment how they might compare to years prior. 

A drop in COVID mitigation strategies like masking and social distancing could be contributing factors to their reintroduction. 

Families should not have their children tested for invasive strep infections, even just for precautionary sake, if they are asymptomatic. 

ABC News reports children’s hospitals in at least four states were registering an unusual number of cases in December.

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