Local doctors not seeing uptick of concerning bacterial infection reported elsewhere

PITTSBURGH — Local doctors told Channel 11 that they are currently not seeing an uptick in a concerning bacterial infection that is causing alarm in other parts of the nation.

Cases of Invasive Group A Strep are higher than normal in states like Texas, Colorado, Denver and Washington, according to NBC News. In the United Kingdom, at least fifteen children have died from the infection within the last few months.

Noninvasive strains of Group A Strep are responsible for more common infections, like strep throat. But, Invasive Group A Strep can lead to more severe illnesses.

“It’s deeper infections, and these are more life-threatening infections, they can cause things like Sepsis,” said Dr. Brian Lamb, an internal medicine physician for Allegheny Health Network.

“It could be a bad pneumonia, it could be a bone infection, it could be a joint infection, it could be in the blood,” said Dr. Michael Green, a medical director with UPMC Children’s Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

Both doctors told Channel 11 that while we typically have local cases of Invasive Group A Strep, they are not noticing any sort of alarming increase.

“I think, right now, it’s not clear how widely spread this is,” said Dr. Green. “To my knowledge, the CDC, and departments of health for various states are just now rolling up their sleeves to try to understand this.”

Green said that adults can become infected, but Invasive Group A Strep is more common among children, especially kids ages 5 through 15.

It’s spread through direct contact with fluids from the nose or throat. It can present itself in various ways and can sometimes seem like the flu. Dr. Green said that Invasive Group A Strep can sometimes develop as a secondary infection on top of a community respiratory virus.

“We don’t want anyone to panic,” Dr. Lamb said. “It is treatable.”

Like strep throat, Invasive Group A Strep can be detected via testing and can be treated with antibiotics.

“Group A Strep as a germ has never become resistant to Penicillin or Amoxicillin,” Dr. Green said, although he noted that antibiotic shortages remain a concern.

People are encouraged to monitor their symptoms and to closely monitor their children.

“If they’re very young or nonverbal, look for clues,” Dr. Lamb said. “If they’re not eating, not drinking, if they’re becoming lethargic, high fevers... that’s where it’s so important to make sure that you talk to your doctor.”

Early treatment is important. Speak with your physician if you’re concerned. Both doctors, however, did note that people should be mindful not to overcrowd emergency rooms. Your doctor can advise you on the best course of action.

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