Anyone is susceptible to strep, especially children and seniors. Individuals in congregate care settings, schools, and daycares may be at higher risk of exposure if an illness occurs in that facility. As of February 2023, the number of cases nationally reached a 12-month high.
Monitoring of streptococcal illnesses is ongoing. More importantly, early recognition of illness, prompt diagnosis, proper treatment, and follow-up are necessary to reduce the spread of infection.
What is noninvasive and invasive strep?
Streptococcal infections are caused by a highly contagious bacteria called group A streptococci (GAS). Generally, people spread the bacteria to others through respiratory droplets and direct contact.
Group A Strep causes a variety of noninvasive illnesses, including strep throat, tonsillitis, scarlet fever, and other skin and soft tissue infections. The U.S. records several million cases of noninvasive group A strep yearly.
When group A strep invades the tissue and bloodstream, it is called invasive group A streptococci (iGAS or invasive strep). Invasive strep infections are rare but can be deadly. According to the CDC, 1,500 and 2,300 people in America die of invasive infections each year.
Why are we seeing an increase in strep infections now?
A significant number of viruses circulate during winter through spring in the US. Viral illnesses weaken our bodies and immune systems, leaving us at greater risk for other infections.
Individuals with weakened immune systems due to recent viral illnesses (such as influenza or chickenpox), chronic illnesses, or age (especially the very young and elderly) are more susceptible to strep infections.
Most individuals with noninvasive strep will feel better in a few days if the condition is diagnosed and treated effectively and there are no other illnesses. However, if left untreated, a noninvasive strep infection can spread to other parts of your body and cause serious complications, including invasive streptococcal infection.
Remember – recognizing and responding to the illness is the most critical step in managing a strep infection.
How can you reduce your risk of strep infection?
Like many other illnesses, noninvasive strep is contagious. All of us need to do whatever we can to prevent the spread of noninvasive strep in our homes and communities.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent the spread of noninvasive strep infections:
Be vigilant about your own health and the health of those for whom you are responsible.
Keep sick family members home from school or work to help prevent community spread.
Wash your hands often with warm water and soap. When soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand cleanser containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
Clean all surfaces with disinfectant cleaner or wipes, especially if someone in your home or work area is ill.
Be aware of the health of others around you. Try to limit your exposure to others who are having symptoms of illness.
Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
Don’t share eating utensils, dishes, or drinking glasses; wash them in hot, soapy water after each use.
Don’t share food, drinks, napkins, or towels with sick family members.
Seek medical attention if you have an illness that is not improving or progressively worsening.
Stay current with recommended vaccines. This is especially important for children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.
What symptoms should alert parents and caregivers?
Seek medical care immediately if there is a decline in alertness or behavior. Examples of this include:
Not responding to people or the environment.
Not being able to hold a conversation or answer questions.
Additionally, seek medical care if your family member has been diagnosed with a virus that does not improve or worsens after five days.
More information on noninvasive and invasive strep infections
Knowing the facts about how to recognize and respond to strep infection is essential.
As always, if you have questions about your health, don’t hesitate to call your primary care provider. The CDC and the IDPH also offer additional information online.
You can also call the MCHD for additional information about noninvasive and invasive strep infections.