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Colorado state health officials recently reported an increase in pediatric hospitalizations caused by group A strep.

Group-A Streptococcus (GAS)/CDC

There have been 11 reported cases of invasive group A strep in children since Nov. 1, 2022, in the Denver metro area.

Recent cases range in age from 10 months to 6 years, but anyone of any age can get group A strep. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is aware of two deaths among these cases. Both were young children who were not yet school aged. The official cause of death has not been finalized by a coroner or medical examiner. The last reported death in a pediatric patient with group A strep in Colorado was in 2018.

“While they remain rare, CDPHE is seeing invasive group A strep infections in Colorado that cause severe illness,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, CDPHE. “There is no vaccine for group A strep, but keeping up to date on vaccines for COVID-19, flu, and chickenpox can help protect your child from developing complications from a group A strep infection. Stay home when you are sick and practice good hand hygiene — regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and avoid touching your face. Call your child’s doctor if they are experiencing new or worsening symptoms of an illness.”

This has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory to notify clinicians and public health authorities of the recent increase in pediatric invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) infections.

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Group A strep commonly causes sore throat, a mild and common condition that can be easily treated. While rare, invasive group A strep infections are severe and cause diseases like pneumonia, sepsis, toxic shock syndrome, and a serious skin and tissue infection called necrotizing fasciitis. An invasive infection occurs when bacteria like group A strep move beyond the throat or skin, where they are likely to cause mild infection, and enter the bloodstream, lungs, fluid in the spinal cord, or other places inside the body they would not typically live.