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West Michigan doctors see rise in strep A cases

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is seeing an increase in Strep A infections and has had recent deaths in western Michigan children.

Invasive group A streptococcal infections are still rare, but doctors say they can lead to serious complications or death and want more people to be aware.

The Doctor. George Fogg, an expert in pediatric infectious diseases, said that Strep A infections occur when a Strep infection goes beyond the sites where the bacteria are normally found in a standard Strep infection.

“If this bacteria gets into the wrong part of your body or the wrong compartment in your body, it can really cause a very serious and rapidly progressing infection. This bacteria produces a lot of toxins and is very pro-inflammatory, so it can cause a lot of tissue destruction,” said Fogg.

Fogg said the children’s hospital had reported deaths in recent months. Doctors treated four cases of Strep A in the last month and, on average, see less than five cases in a year.

The bacteria is spread primarily through respiratory droplets, but there are other ways to get the infection.

“Group A streptococcus actually lives on your skin, so it can pass through a microscopic cut or something like that. It can cause cellulitis when you have skin redness and pain and things like that,” Fogg said.

It can be treated with common antibiotics, which can be very effective, especially if treated early.

“Sometimes it can trigger acute rheumatic fever and that’s the reason why we really treat you for strep throat, we don’t want your immune system to cause this entity, but it can also cause these invasive infections,” Fogg said.

The hospital wants people to be aware of the concern. There are things that can be done to improve outcomes for patients who get the infection.

“These invasive group A streptococcal infections are rare, but they do occur and are associated with things like influenza and chickenpox (chickenpox) infections, for which we have immunizations,” Fogg said.

For more information about strep A, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page.