As cases of group A streptococcus start to increase across Australia, people are being warned about this deadly disease that has killed dozens of kids worldwide already.
One particular case of a 1 year old boy has been making headlines.
The toddler went into septic shock after the infection took over his body and unfortunately had both of his legs amputated in an attempt to save his life.
The cardiac arrest and the brain damage that Ryan experienced all began with a simple runny nose and fever.
One expert told Yahoo News Australia that “now is the time to educate people” about the severity of the infection, also known as Strep A.
According to Dr. Bart Eijkelkamp, Strep A, also known as iGAS, is frequently pretty mild, with a form known as strep throat.
However, he cautioned that the current invasive strain “can do a lot more harm” and that younger kids are sadly at high risk.
According to information released last week, the infection has so far been linked to 190 deaths, 30 of which were children.
In Australia, the illness claimed the lives of two children last year, and hundreds more were hospitalized nationwide.
Executive director of Telethon, Jonathan Carapfetis, says that “The illness can be fatal within hours. I would describe it as the nastiest bug you have probably never heard of… it is the sort of bug that can kill really you in hours.”
1,163 instances of iGAS were recorded in Australia in 2022, according to statistics from the Department of Health’s National Communicable Disease Surveillance Dashboard.
Carapetis told the ABC that “Usually between 7 and 20 percent of cases that get this nasty strep infection will unfortunately end up dying.”
Dr. Eijkelkamp noted that the initial symptoms are extremely similar to seasonal flu, with a fever, respiratory problems, and muscular pains being frequent signs.
There may also be skin that is red and inflamed or that is mottled.
“It is those early days that are very tricky because realistically it wouldn’t appear any different to any normal viral infection. Primarily it is your immune system trying to fight the bacteria. You can go into septic shock and that can be lethal immediately. The transition from cold like and flu like symptoms to a complete shutdown of organs can occur really rapidly. That is the scary part of it”.
Ryan’s situation may be “unusual” and perhaps “severe,” but according to Dr. Eijkelkamp, there is a chance that it might become more typical.
Ryan’s family relocated nearly 500 km from Broken Hill to Adelaide for the baby’s treatment, and they are now trying to obtain donations through a GoFundMe page to help with medical and relocation fees.
According to Department of Health and Aged Care statistics, the overall number of cases appears to have increased in December of 2022 before declining in January of 2023.
With that being said, however, one representative did point out that the data may be biased.
“Many territories only started reporting cases nationally in October of 2022. Consequently, the data cannot determine whether there’s an actual increase in cases or whether this perceived increase is influenced by increased reports by clinicians and states, seasonal fluctuation in case numbers or any other factors.”
In order to manage this recent rise in reported cases, the department is continuing to regularly monitor iGAS while closely collaborating with the Communicable Diseases Network Australia.