Invasive Group A Streptococcus
Invasive Group A Streptococcus is not a reportable disease in Oklahoma; however, the Oklahoma State Department of Health investigates outbreaks of Invasive Group A Streptococcus to control the spread of this disease. Streptococcus (Strep) is the cause of many illnesses such as throat and skin infections, which are usually mild. Strep organisms may also be present in the throat or on the skin without causing any symptoms or illness at all. Strep is also the cause of scarlet fever. The symptoms of Strep infections vary according to where the infection occurs. When Strep organisms infect a part of the body that is normally sterile such as the bloodstream or spinal fluid, it is called an “invasive” infection, which can be severe and sometimes life-threatening. Examples of invasive infections are meningitis (inflammation of the meninges, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord), bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), toxic shock syndrome (a complex illness with symptoms of sudden fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches and rash, which can quickly lead to severe illness and sometimes death) or necrotizing fasciitis (a quickly spreading infection causing tissue destruction that requires aggressive treatment to prevent serious complications, also known as flesh-eating bacteria).
Strep can be spread by respiratory secretions from infected people, or by contact with drainage from skin infections. You can help prevent Strep infections by careful and frequent hand washing, especially after contact with respiratory secretions or items that may be contaminated with them. Remember to cover your own cough with a tissue, then throw it away and wash your hands immediately. When your hands are not visibly dirty, and you are not near a sink, use an alcohol-based hand gel. If you follow the instructions on the product, the hand gels are as good as soap and water in these situations.
Another way to prevent Strep infections is to protect yourself if you have any broken skin. Skin that has been injured or is otherwise not intact is susceptible to infection unless it is kept clean and covered while healing. If signs of skin infection occur such as redness, swelling and drainage, contact your healthcare provider. Wound drainage can carry Strep infections, so it is important to keep any wound drainage contained with a bandage, and to change any bandages that become soaked as soon as possible. Good hand washing after changing a bandage is important: Do it immediately after you throw the used bandages into the trash.
Persons who have been diagnosed with Strep throat should stay home from daycare, school, or work until at least 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment. It is always important to take any antibiotics exactly as prescribed, and to finish all of the prescription.