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A rare, deadly bacterial infection is on the rise in Japan

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Outbreak of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome in Japan. How to recognize a dangerous infection and how to prevent it

Cases of streptococcal-induced toxic shock syndrome (STSS) in Japan this year have drawn attention to this rare and dangerous bacterial infection. There were 1,019 STSS cases in the first six months of 2024, which is more than the total number of cases registered in the country last year.

Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases warned of an increase in cases after recording 77 deaths from the disease in March. Most cases at the time involved people over 50 years of age. According to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 145 cases of STSS will be reported in the US in 2021.

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What is Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS)?

According to the CDC, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome is a serious illness caused by group A streptococci spreading into the blood and deep tissues. Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is a common bacteria found in the throat and skin. Most GAS infections cause mild and general illness: B. Streptococci. Life-threatening conditions such as STSS can occur when bacteria enter areas where they are not normally found, such as: blood or muscle B.

GAS commonly causes sore throats and skin infections, said Céline Gounder, senior public health editor for KFF Health News and an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at NYU and Bellevue Hospital. Blood, lung and “flesh-eating” infections are “less common,” he added. According to the CDC, factors that increase the risk of developing STSS include open wounds, diabetes, and alcohol consumption. Three in 10 STSS patients are likely to die, the agency estimates.

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Risk factors include recent surgery or an illness such as chicken pox or varicella, the CDC said, adding that STSS is more common in people over age 65. STSS is “highly associated” with necrotizing fasciitis, the flesh-eating form of group A streptococcus that can cause STSS, said Andrew Steer, director of infection, immunity and global health at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia.

According to Penn Medicine, affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, necrotizing fasciitis can destroy muscle, skin and underlying tissue.

What are the symptoms of STSS?

According to the CDC, symptoms of STSS begin with fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. According to Steer, there are often no early warning signs. “You feel fine and then get really sick,” she said, adding that a sunburn-like rash can be one of the first signs of infection. Within 24 to 48 hours, blood pressure drops, followed by organ failure and rapid heart rate and breathing, the CDC says. It is important to get to the hospital as soon as possible.

Steer added that while a sore throat often comes to mind when you think of a strep infection, STSS is a different variant of the illness caused by the same type of bacteria. “It’s basically one or the other,” he said.

How is STSS treated?

STSS is treated with antibiotics. Patients often require intravenous fluids, procedures to treat organ failure, and surgery to remove infected tissue, according to the CDC.

While there is no vaccine for group A streptococcal infections, Steer is one of the scientists working around the world to develop such a vaccine and hopes to have it available “within 5 to 10 years.”

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What caused the spread of STDS in Japan?

Japan’s health ministry said this month that the reasons for the increase in cases were unclear. The easing of coronavirus measures could be a factor contributing to the rise in the number of streptococcal pharyngitis cases, the ministry said. The trend is not limited to Japan, the ministry said in a statement, adding that it is safe to travel to the country. The ministry advised hand hygiene, cough etiquette and cleaning wounds to avoid infections.

Steer said the cases in Japan come amid a post-pandemic surge of various types of streptococcal infections around the world. This is because even though people take precautions to avoid infection, they also avoid other diseases that weaken the immune system.

Should you worry?

STSS is rare and long-standing worldwide. Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome and invasive streptococcal A infections have been present in the United States for decades, decades, hundreds of years, Steer said. “It is still a rare infection, but people and doctors should be aware that the number of patients is increasing,” he said, advising them to pay attention to symptoms.

Julia Mio Inuma contributed to this report.

To teachers

Francis Winal Correspondent for The Washington Post in Seoul.

Niha Masih He is a correspondent in the Washington Post’s Seoul bureau, where he covers breaking news from the United States and around the world. He was previously the Post’s India correspondent, where he covered the rise of majoritarian nationalism, the conflict in Kashmir, the Covid crisis and digital surveillance of citizens.

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We are currently testing machine translations. This article was automatically translated from English to German.

This article was originally published in English on June 19, 2024 by “Washingtonpost.com” Published – as part of a collaboration, which is now available in translation to readers of IPPEN.MEDIA portals.

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