The New York City Health Department issued an alert for providers concerning an increase in pediatric cases  invasive Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Streptococcal disease/GAS) infections during March and April.

Group-A Streptococcus (GAS)/CDC
Group-A Streptococcus (GAS)/CDC

Among children less than 18 years old, there were 18 reported GAS cases in March and April 2016 compared with 12 during the same period in 2015. Most patients (44%) were Bronx residents, and the median age was 6.5 years.

Health officials say some patients have presented with atypical symptoms and were diagnosed with sinusitis, pneumonia, and abscesses.

Providers should consider prompt empiric antibiotic treatment while awaiting the results of cultures in children with a prolonged febrile illness or abnormal vital signs out of proportion to clinical illness.

According to the CDC, GAS are bacteria that can live in a person’s nose and throat. The bacteria are spread through contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. It is also possible for group A strep to spread from contact with sores from a group A strep skin infection.

Most group A strep infections are relatively mild illnesses such as strep throat, scarlet fever, and impetigo (a skin infection).

Serious, sometimes life-threatening, group A strep disease may occur when bacteria get into parts of the body where bacteria usually are not found, such as the blood, muscle, or the lungs. These infections are termed “invasive group A strep disease.” Two of the most serious, but least common, forms of invasive group A strep disease are necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.