Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut (SSI) reports more and more people in Denmark are currently being diagnosed with an infection with group A streptococci, and the increase has now reached a level that far exceeds the normal for the time of year.
In addition, there has been a tripling of invasive cases (iGAS) in one month, which are cases where streptococci have spread and caused serious conditions, for example blood poisoning. In December, 68 cases were registered, but the number in November was 22.
“It is SSI’s expectation that the number of positive cases may continue to increase for some time to come. Usually there are the most invasive cases in the months January to March, but there are also signs of many positive tests in January so far”, says department head and department doctor Peter Henrik Andersen from SSI.
Most severe cases are seen in older people over the age of 65, but there are also a smaller number of invasive cases detected in children under 5 years of age.
An increasing number of deaths are recorded within 30 days of detection of iGAS, but it is not proportionally more than usual. Abroad, there have been reports of cases among children that have had a fatal outcome, but SSI finds no evidence of increased mortality among children.
Rising throughout Europe
Group A streptococci are a common cause of infections, and most frequently cause diseases such as strep throat, otitis media, scarlet fever and canker sores. In certain cases, and especially in the elderly and people with poor immune systems, the infection can spread and cause serious conditions such as blood poisoning, meningitis and toxic shock syndrome.
The increase in the number of infections comes at the same time that since December there have been reports from other European countries about an increased incidence of infections with group A streptococci.
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The fact that we in Denmark – and all over Europe – are seeing such a sharp increase right now may possibly be due to the bacterium making a comeback after being kept down under the covid-19 restrictions, says Peter Henrik Andersen from SSI.
“Infections with this type of bacteria have been at a lower level during the first long part of the corona pandemic. It seems that the increase that we have also seen for some other infections after society was opened up again is now also happening for group A streptococci”, he explains.
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