Nasty infection you’ve ‘probably never heard’ of surges in Australia as an urgent warning is issued to parents: ‘It can kill within hours’
- Strep A cases rise in WA, Victoria, NSW and Queensland
- Experts warn the nasty bacteria infection can kill within hours
- Parents urged to be vigilant and seek medical attention immediately
Health authorities have issued an urgent warning to parents about a life-threatening infection running rampant across Australia.
Cases of the killer bug Strep A have doubled in Western Australia in the past three months in the state’s first major surge of the infection in two decades.
On the other side of the country, Queensland, NSW and Victorian authorities have also all reported recent spikes in cases among children.
Also known as group A Streptococcus, the bacterial infection is found in the throat and skin but can lead to other invasive infections.
It’s the same infection that led to the death of Perth girl Aishwarya Aswath in 2021 and claimed the lives of at least two other children in Victoria last year.
Doctors have warned of the life-threatening dangers of Strep A, which can kill within hours
Parents have been urged to be vigilant and seek medical attention immediately if symptoms emerge.
They include a sore throat, fevers or chills, dizziness, shortness of breath, headache, nausea, skin infection and abdominal pain.
Strep A kills more than 600,000 worldwide each year, according to Telethon Kids Institute executive director Jonathan Carapetis.
He warned the infection could kill within hours.
‘I’d describe it as the nastiest bug you’ve probably never heard of . . . it’s the sort of bug that can kill you in hours,’ Professor Carapetis told The West Australian.
‘If a kid is getting sick very quickly, that’s a potential emergency and you don’t wait until tomorrow to see the GP, you take them straight to the emergency department. Literally, children can go to bed and never wake up.’
He believes the easing of Covid-19 restrictions has contributed to the global rise in Strep A infections.
He added the capacity to treat the bug was being impacted by shortages in penicillin and amoxicillin.
Health experts in Western Australia, Queensland, NSW and Victoria have raised concern about a recent spike in Strep A cases (stock image)
School-aged children, the elderly and pregnant women are among the most vulnerable.
In April 2021, Aishwarya Aswath died of sepsis after contracting an infection in group A streptococcus after staff at Perth Children’s Hospital failed to identify the seriousness of her condition.
A recent spike across Victoria prompted the state’s chief health officer professor Brett Sutton to issue a warning after 60 children with Strep A were hospitalised in 2022.
Safer Care Victoria recommends children showing signs of a serious bacterial infection should be treated “promptly” with antibiotics.
Queensland also recorded a 20 per cent of Strep A infections in 2022 which claimed nine lives .
Experts warn the nasty bacteria infection (stock image) can kill within hours if symptoms are missed
NSW recorded 137 cases of invasive group A streptococcus in the final trimester of 2022.
‘Rapid intervention and effective treatment for invasive bacterial infections are available and can be lifesaving,’ Health Protection NSW executive director Dr Richard Broome said.
‘We urge people to pay close attention to symptoms, trust their instincts, and seek urgent medical care if symptoms worsen or if they or the people they care for appear very unwell.’
There are currently no preventative treatment for the infection.
Teams of researchers across the country, including Professor Carapetis are now working on vaccine trials which could be up and running within three years.
Strep A tragically claimed the life of Perth girl Aishwarya Aswath, 7, in 2021
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