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revised February 03, 2012

Arrow BulletGroup A Streptococcus

What is Group A Streptococcus?

  • Group A Streptococcus (Group A Strep or GAS) is a common bacteria that can cause a variety of infections ranging from no illness to severe illness.
  • The most frequent conditions include:
    • Sore throats (commonly referred to as strep throat)
    • Ear infections
    • Skin infections
    • Scarlet fever.
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How Common is Group A Strep Bacteria in the General Population?

  • Group A Strep is commonly found in the nose and throat of about 5-30% of children and 1% of adults.
  • It can be carried in the throat or skin of healthy people who show no signs or symptoms of illness.
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How is Group A Strep Spread?

  • Direct contact with the nose or mouth secretions of an infected person
  • For example, through open mouth kissing, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or through direct contact with infected sores on the skin.
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Can Group A Strep Infections be Serious?

  • In rare cases, the same strep bacteria can cause a severe form of illness called invasive GAS disease.
  • This happens when bacteria get into parts of the body where the bacteria are not usually found such as the blood, muscle or the lungs.
  • The most severe forms of invasive GAS disease can cause very serious illness and may even lead to death.
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How Common is Invasive GAS Disease?

  • In Ontario, every year, approximately 2-3 people out of every 100,000 have an invasive GAS infection.
  • This is much less than the thousands of people who experience non-invasive infections such as strep throat each year.
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Who is Most at Risk for Invasive GAS Disease?

  • Few people who come in contact with Group A Strep develop severe invasive disease; most will have a routine throat or skin infection.
  • Although healthy people can get invasive disease, people with chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes and kidney dialysis, and those who use medications such as steroids, are at higher risk.
  • Breaks in the skin, like cuts, surgical wounds or chickenpox may also provide an opportunity for the bacteria to enter the body.
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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Invasive GAS Disease?

  • A person with this serious form of Group A Strep infection can become very ill within 12 – 24 hours.
  • There can be a history of flu-like symptoms such as fever, pain and muscle ache before signs of infection or rash quickly develop.
  • In other cases there may be severe pain, swelling, redness or swollen lymph nodes associated with a recent cut or injury.
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What Precautions can be Taken to Prevent Invasive GAS Disease?

  • Use good personal hygiene, especially frequent and thorough hand washing
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or upper sleeve
  • Wounds and cuts should be well cleansed, disinfected and bandaged
  • Report any sudden or unusual signs of infection, sore throat and/or fever to your doctor
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What is the Role of Peel Public Health?

  • Peel Public Health investigates reports of communicable diseases including Invasive GAS disease.
  • Our role is to identify, notify close contacts of an infected person and assess the need for preventive antibiotics.
  • Contacts are advised to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of GAS infection and/or fever for 30 days.
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Revised: February 03, 2012


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