More than 300 cases of invasive group A streptococcal infections, likely to cause flesh-eating disease, have been reported in Quebec in recent months. This is a 55% increase in infections compared to previous years, warns the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS).

From August 28 to February 11, 347 cases of invasive infections were reported in Quebec compared to an average of 223 cases for the same period between 2015 and 2019, warned the MSSS in its April newsletter for professionals. of health. This “significant increase” is particularly marked among children aged 6 months to 9 years and is observed across the province.

A non-invasive group A streptococcal infection can manifest itself in different ways, including pharyngitis, tonsillitis, or a skin infection such as impetigo or scarlet fever.

Over the past ten days, at the Pierre-Le Gardeur hospital in Terrebonne, four people presented with serious infections and were carriers of group A streptococcus. “This represents a temporary increase, the situation deserves to be followed to validate if it will persist over time, “said the director of public relations of the CISSS de Lanaudière, Pascale Lamy.

The current investigation does not indicate any epidemiological link between these people. Close contacts have been prescribed an antibiotic to prevent new cases from occurring, Lamy said.

For Dr. Donald Vinh, infectious disease specialist and microbiologist at the McGill University Health Center, these four cases, presumably of flesh-eating disease, in one week represent “a signal that we must be careful”.

Infected patients usually present to hospital with fever, nausea, vomiting and a purple or red leg, Dr Vinh observes. “Within a few hours, their condition can deteriorate. Healthcare workers are trained to be alert for these types of symptoms, because sometimes you have to get the patient straight to the operating room,” he says.

The resurgence of respiratory viruses after the relaxation of sanitary measures could explain this increase in invasive infections, estimates the Ministry.

Moreover, this increase in cases in Quebec is not an isolated phenomenon. Their number is also increasing significantly in many European countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Ireland and Sweden. The Netherlands and the United States are also reporting an increase in cases among children, the ministry notes.

“The proportion of cases in children appears to be higher than in pre-pandemic years, and several deaths have also been reported,” the MSSS says in its newsletter.

Strep A is spread through respiratory droplets or direct contact with the bacteria, such as pus, Dr. Vinh notes. Since there is no vaccine against these infections, good hygiene practices, such as washing hands and surfaces, can limit the transmission of these infections. For its part, the CISSS de Lanaudière reminds us that we must be vigilant and consult quickly if a wound infection occurs.