While a health alert warned doctors late last year about rising cases of severe strep in children, U.S. officials now say those numbers were actually a return to normal.
“Based on preliminary 2022 data, iGAS [invasive group A streptococcal] infections in children have returned to levels similar to those seen in pre-pandemic years,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an updated notice.
IGAS, which is triggered by infection with strep A bacteria, is rare, but it can lead to organ failure and tissue damage.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States had very low numbers of iGAS infections in children. This was likely due to the steps many people took during the pandemic to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases,” the CDC said.
Between 2010 and 2020, the United States reported an average of more than 10,000 invasive group A strep cases each year, federal data show. More than 1,000 died in each year.
In 2018, there were 25,160 severe strep infection and 2,320 deaths, the worst in that decade.
As with other early infections in recent months, including RSV and flu, the iGAS cases were reported earlier in the season than is typical, increasing between September and November, CBS News reported.
For example, Minnesota saw a return to pediatric IGAS cases, at 30 compared to at least 26 per year in 2017 through 2019.
“The 2022 year started off with cases lower than might be expected, and is ending with cases being higher than in prior years,” Andrea Ahneman, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Health told CBS News.
Respiratory diseases could increase again, health authorities noted. While flu A has been dominant, type B strains may show up next, CBS News reported.
“We often do see a later peak and increase of influenza B viruses after influenza A viruses have peaked. So it’s actually still unknown whether we’re going to see an increase in influenza B viruses,” the CDC’s Tim Uyeki said in a webinar hosted by Emory University last month, CBS News reported.
The World Health Organization has more on iGAS.
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