Serious streptococcal infections were diagnosed more than usual in children in the past year. Although these bacteria are still very rare, the number of children hospitalized with them has increased sharply since the beginning of 2022. This is evident from research from Juliana Children’s Hospital in collaboration with six other hospitals.
These are the so-called GAS bacteria (Group A streptococci). In several cases, children died in hospital from the infection. There is an urgent need for follow-up research, say the seven hospitals that participated in the study.
The strep infection can appear as harmless bacteria in the throat and on the skin and sometimes cause a throat infection or scarlet fever. In rare cases, a serious infection such as blood poisoning, pneumonia, severe subcutaneous infection or bone infection develops. “An infection can go from mild to very serious within a day,” pediatric infectious disease immunologist Michiel van der Flier (UMC Utrecht) said earlier. “The child is visibly deteriorating. It is important to start antibiotics as soon as possible.
Repeal of the corona measures
In the months following the lifting of the corona measures, the researchers saw significantly more children with a severe group A streptococcal infection than in previous years. In the second quarter of this year, 28 children reported to hospitals with a serious infection. In the second quarter of 2019 there were nine, in 2018 only two. The serious infections occurred mainly in children under five years of age.
“During the corona pandemic, significantly fewer cases have been reported. Due to the corona measures and closures of schools and nurseries, children may be less exposed to it. We suspect that there is now a catch-up effect,” says a spokesperson for the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Environment (RIVM).
Five children did not survive the disease
Of the 61 children who ended up in one of these seven hospitals with a group A strep infection after the Covid measures were lifted, five children did not survive the illness. It is also a remarkably high number according to the hospitals. In the two years before the start of the pandemic, this infection led to only one death.
Follow-up research should reveal why there are now so many more serious group A strep infections among young children.
Increase in several European countries
In other European countries, including the UK, there also appears to be an increase in serious group A strep infections among children. The WHO also reports an increase in several European countries.
Earlier, the Dutch Pediatric Association, RIVM and the Dutch Practitioners’ College issued a warning to paediatricians and general practitioners to be extra vigilant.
The figures from RIVM show that all kinds of viruses are on the rise. The RS virus is now officially an epidemic.
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