Flesh-Eating Bacteria Outbreak Escalates in Japan Post-COVID Restrictions, Death Risk within 48 Hours

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan has reported a significant increase in cases of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS), a rare but potentially deadly bacterial infection. As of June 2, 2023, 977 cases had been confirmed this year, exceeding the 941 cases reported for the entire previous year.

The rise in infections has been attributed to the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, which has led to an increase in social interactions and potential exposure to the bacteria. Group A Streptococcus (GAS), which commonly causes strep throat, is responsible for this condition. In severe cases, GAS can escalate rapidly, causing limb pain, fever, low blood pressure, tissue death, breathing difficulties, organ failure, and even death.

Professor Ken Kikuchi of Tokyo Women’s Medical University warns that individuals aged 50 and older are at higher risk of developing severe complications from STSS. He emphasizes the need to maintain good hand hygiene and to promptly treat any open wounds to prevent infection. Kikuchi also notes that GAS can be carried in the intestines and may contaminate hands through feces.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also reported an increase in cases of invasive group A streptococcus (iGAS) disease, including STSS, in several European countries following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Health experts urge the public to remain vigilant and to seek medical attention immediately if they experience any symptoms such as swelling, fever, or pain. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent serious complications and fatalities.

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