Group A Streptococcal (GAS) bacteria cause common infections such as strep throat and impetigo. At any time up to 10% of school children may carry the bacteria and have no symptoms. The CDC estimates that there are several million cases of strep throat and impetigo. Most Group A Streptococcal infections are not serious or invasive and are not reportable to the SC Department of Health & Environmental Control. Invasive Group A Strep infections are rare complications of GAS. These more severe infections include: sepsis (an invasion of bacteria in the bloodstream); pneumonia; necrotizing fasciitis, an infection that affects the deeper layers of skin and underlying tissues; and, rarely, Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome, which starts at the site of a wound.
Symptoms will vary depending on the strain of GAS and where the bacteria have entered the body.
People with sore throats, impetigo, or infected wounds should see their doctor for medical care and possible Strep testing and antibiotics. Symptoms of invasive forms of Group A Strep are very serious and require immediate medical attention. Diagnosis can sometimes be difficult to make early in the course of infection. Treatment includes antibiotics, intensive medical care, and in some cases, surgery.
Group A Strep can be spread through direct, close personal contact with the oral secretions or infected tissue fluids of someone with GAS infection. Most people who are exposed to Group A Strep do not get infected or become ill. Only close personal contacts (ie, household members) who are exposed to invasive GAS strain are at minimal risk of being infected.
Careful and regular handwashing is the best prevention, especially before eating, after coughing or sneezing or using the bathroom, and before preparing foods. Cuts and abrasions should be kept clean and covered. Anyone who has been diagnosed with non-invasive group A strep should stay home from work or school until they have been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours. Avoid close personal contact with anyone who has strep throat, wound infection or impetigo or GAS infection until 1-2 days after antibiotics are begun.
There is no increased risk to the general public. Even close personal contacts (household, personal care workers) are at only minimal increased risk.