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Sharp Increase in Invasive Streptococci in Sweden

Sharp Increase in Invasive Streptococci

This year has already seen a sharp increase in the number of cases of invasive group A streptococcus reported to the Public Health Agency. So far, 750 cases have been reported – twice as many as during the whole of last year. This spike is being attributed to the reduced contacts and low immunity levels that resulted from the pandemic. Five children under the age of 10 have died as a result of streptococcal infections this year.

Increased Spread of Streptococci

The increased spread of streptococci is not unique to Sweden; other countries are seeing similar increases. Streptococcal infections are a common bacteria, usually causing mild infections such as strep throat and chicken pox. But in rare cases, it can cause very severe infection, with some people at risk of serious illness and even death. So far this year, seven children under the age of 18 and five children under 10 have died as a result of invasive group A streptococci.

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How to Protect Yourself

Erik Sturegård stresses that it is difficult to completely protect yourself from streptococcal bacteria because they are so common. “It is always wise to think about protecting yourself and others by avoiding meeting others when you are sick, and good hand hygiene is always important,” he advises.

Facts About Invasive Streptococci
  • Invasive infection means that the streptococci are present in the blood or other premises in the body that are sterile.
  • All invasive streptococci belong to a special species known as GAS.
  • GAS infections occur almost exclusively in humans; many people (especially older children and young people) are carriers of GAS, usually in the throat, without showing signs of illness.
  • But it can lead to sepsis (blood poisoning) or toxic shock syndrome (tampon disease) or necrotizing fasciitis – all serious conditions which can lead to death in extreme cases.
  • Patients with invasive GAS infection require immediate care and are treated with antibiotics and anti-shock drugs.
  • Unfortunately there is no vaccine against GAS.

It is important for expats living in Sweden, as well as anyone else who may be at risk of developing invasive streptococci, to be aware of these issues. Taking preventative measures such as avoiding contact with others when unwell and practicing good hand hygiene can help reduce your risk of infection. If you experience any symptoms such as high fever or skin redness growing around a wound, seek medical attention immediately.

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