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Phoenix Children's Hospital sees cluster of invasive group A strep infections

Phoenix Children’s Hospital reports it has seen a number of invasive group A strep infections since early November. These infections have recently been seen in Europe, and the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking into a possible increase in the U.S. 

Invasive group A strep comes from the same bacteria that causes strep throat, but infections can be much more severe, Dr. Wassim Ballan division chief of infectious diseases at Phoenix Children’s Hospital told KJZZ News.

“It’s a type of infection that is more invasive so it kind of involves the deeper tissues of the body," Ballan said. "It sometimes causes sepsis, it causes necrotizing fasciitis, which is the flesh-eating disease, it can cause bone infections, severe lung infections, and pneumonia.”

Two children in Colorado  recently died from invasive group A strep infections.

Ballan said cases are still rare, but they do appear to be on the rise this year in Arizona.

“It seems like it’s happening in a cluster," Ballan said. "We don’t know yet how the situation is going to escalate, but the number of patients that we’ve seen so far is definitely higher than any other years, at least in recent memory.”

RSV, flu and COVID-19 are also still circulating in Arizona. Ballan said group A strep can develop as a complication after a respiratory virus, so he recommends parents keep their kids up-to-date on flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and watch for any worsening symptoms after a cold.

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.