Sunday, April 21, 2024

Streptococcal Infections Soar to Record Levels in Japan

A rare and dangerous bacterial infection caused by the bacteria streptococcus pyogenes is spreading across Japan at a rapid rate. The cause is currently unclear.

Streptococcus pyogenes, a type of Group A strep bacteria, is responsible for causing streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS), an acute-onset infection that can lead to low blood pressure, multiple organ failure, and in some cases, death.

Officials have said the number of STSS cases is expected to go up in 2024, exceeding last year’s record numbers.

strep a

According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the mechanisms behind these types of streptococcal infections are influenced by many unknown factors, which they are not yet able to explain.

Last year, more than 940 cases of STSS were reported in Japan.

As of February 2024, however, over 370 cases have already been confirmed, with infections identified in 45 out of Japan’s 47 prefectures.

The group A strain, which is responsible for the infection, typically affects the elderly, however, more patients under the age of 50 have died from the infections so far. Out of the 65 individuals who were diagnosed in the latter half of 2023, approximately one-third have died due to the infection.

toxic shock syndrome

Streptococcus pyogenes, also known as strep A, usually causes sore throats and fevers, especially in young children. Many people also remain asymptomatic despite having the bacteria.

In some cases, however, the bacteria can cause a deadly infection that can lead to health complications such as multiple organ failure and rarely, death. According to the NIID, nearly 30 percent of cases are fatal.

While the elderly may develop cold and flu-like symptoms, the bacteria can also cause pneumonia, tonsillitis, meningitis, and strep throat.

While the exact cause of the infections is known, many experts believe it may be due to the lifting of restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last May, the Japanese government downgraded the pandemic status from class two to class five, which puts it on the same level as the influenza virus. The change also meant that those who were sick were no longer able to stay away from work or be hospitalized.

Since the Coronavirus status was downgraded, many citizens have also lowered their guard.

covid 19

Professor of Infectious Diseases Ken Kikuchi said he is ‘very worried’ about the significant uptick of streptococcal infections and believes that the reclassification of the coronavirus was the main driving force behind the dramatic increase. He also believes many people have abandoned basic hygiene measures such as washing hands or wearing masks.

Similar to COVID-19, streptococcal infections spread from one person to another through droplets in the air as well as physical contact. The bacteria can also infect individuals through open cuts and wounds.

Normally, doctors use antibiotics to treat Strep A infections, however, those with more severe disease will likely need a mixture of drugs to recover.

Currently, the health ministry of Japan is recommending individuals to take the same hygiene precautious they used during the Covid-10 pandemic, against the streptococcal bacterium.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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