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What is strep A? What are the symptoms of Strep A? How does it spread?

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What is strep A?

Strep A bacteria, also known as Group A Streptococcus or Group A Strep, cause a variety of infections, including strep throat, tonsillitis, and impetigo, a skin infection. Scarlet fever can also be caused by it.

The bacteria, which can cause no symptoms, can be found in infected people’s throats, skin, and respiratory tracts.

While the vast majority of Strep A infections are relatively mild, sometimes the bug can lead to the potentially life-threatening rheumatic fever if it is untreated.

In extremely rare cases, the bacteria can cause invasive Group A Streptococcal disease, which is fatal.

What is invasive Group A Streptococcal disease?

Invading Group A Strep infection occurs when bacteria penetrate deep into the body, such as the blood, deep muscle, or lungs.

Necrotising fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome are two of the most severe but rare types of invasive disease.

Necrotising fasciitis, also known as the “flesh-eating disease,” can occur when a wound becomes infected.

What is strep A?

Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome is a rapidly progressing infection that causes low blood pressure/shock as well as organ damage to the kidneys, liver, and lungs.

This type of toxic shock has a high mortality rate.

What are the symptoms of strep A?

Although Strep A can cause a wide range of serious illnesses, it usually begins with a few common symptoms.

The Symptoms of Strep A rash, sore throat, flushed cheeks, muscle aches, a high fever, tiredness, an ear infection, and skin sores are all symptoms of an infection.

According to the NHS, the symptoms should last for a week.

Some people who carry Strep A have no symptoms, but they are just as likely to spread the bug as those who do.

It typically takes two to five days after being exposed to the bacteria to become ill.

What is strep A?

A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later, starting on the chest and stomach and then spreading.

A white coating also appears on the tongue which peels, leaving the tongue red, swollen and covered in little bumps (often called “strawberry tongue”).

Signs of necrotising fasciitis include fever (a high temperature above 38C), severe pain and swelling, and redness at the wound site.

Early signs and symptoms of toxic shock may include fever, dizziness, confusion, low blood pressure, rash and abdominal pain.

When should I see a doctor?

Strep throat is different from a regular sore throat and the pain can come on very quickly.

The NHS recommends people see their GP or call 111 if a sore throat does not improve after a week, if they are worried or if they have a high temperature, or feel hot and shivery.

People with weakened immune systems such as those having chemotherapy should also see a doctor.

How does the bacteria spread?  

The killer bug spreads through cough droplets, sneezes, talking and contact with infected skin lesions.

Bacteria can be passed from person-to-person by close contact such as kissing or skin contact.

In rare cases, Strep A bacteria is spread through food that has not been handled properly.

The bacteria is more likely to spread in crowded places, such as schools, nurseries or in households if someone in the home is infected.

The killer bug spreads through cough droplets, sneezes, talking and skin-to-skin contact. In rare cases, Strep A bacteria is spread through food that has not been handled properly

People who have impetigo skin sores caused by Strep A bacteria are advised not to share flannels, sheets or towels with others.

Toys should also be washed or cleaned to help prevent the spread.

People can avoid passing on the illness by washing their hands frequently and coughing into a tissue rather than into their hand.

Can these illnesses be treated?

Antibiotics are used to treat Strep A infections such as scarlet fever and impetigo.

People are generally thought to be contagious after a full 24 hours of antibiotics.

Anyone suspected of having invasive Group A Streptococcal disease should seek medical attention right away.

Antibiotics, other medications, and intensive medical care are likely to be required.

There is currently no Strep A vaccine available.

Can it kill?

Most cases of Strep A only cause mild illness such as a sore throat.

But in some instances, it can be life-threatening.

Severe forms of the disease will usually need to be treated in hospital.

Historically, scarlet fever killed about 20 per cent of people it infected.

In the Victorian era, between 1820 and 1880, there was a global scarlet fever pandemic. There were also several severe epidemics in Europe and North America.

However, since the discovery of penicillin in 1928 at St Mary’s Hospital in London, by Alexander Fleming, the number of deaths from Strep A have been greatly reduced.

The death rate is now less than one percent.