DENVER – Two Denver metro children have died in the past month after contracting invasive group A strep, a rare bacterial infection, but what exactly caused their deaths remains unknown, according to the state’s health department.
Since Nov. 1, 11 cases have been reported to the state, including the two fatalities. Although a spokesperson with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) could not provide more information about the children, they confirmed they are not school-aged.
“What we don't know yet, and we're still waiting for confirmation through the coroner process, is the final cause of death,” state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said Thursday.
Invasive group A strep, or iGAS, is not like strep throat. Instead, it’s an infection caused by bacteria getting into the bloodstream and other parts of the body. Typically, Colorado only sees a few cases a month, and while there is an increase, it’s still quite rare.
“It's really when the bacteria get beyond sort of our immune defenses that live at that interface of superficial, or non-sterile sites, and sterile sites,” Herlihy said. “When the bacteria get beyond that threshold, that's when we have these severe infections or invasive infections.”
Why it’s concerning is that the infection can result in a flesh-eating disease or toxic shock syndrome.
“One of the scenarios that we've been seeing are children who have these preceding viral respiratory infections — COVID, RSV, flu — and then they start getting better, and then they get sick again or develop new symptoms. And that's really when we start worrying about these invasive bacterial infections,” Herlihy said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parents should keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Redness of the skin
- Severe pain
- Fever and chills
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
Herlihy says one of the most important strategies to prevent infection is to keep your children up-to-date with their COVID-19, flu and chickenpox vaccines.