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Rare ‘Flesh-Eating Bacteria’ Spreading In Japan, Can Kill In 2 Days

Similar outbreaks have been noted in Europe following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions in late 2022. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported an increase in invasive GAS disease, including STSS, in several countries.

Edited By : Aniket Raj | Updated: Jun 15, 2024 18:38 IST
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A rare “flesh-eating bacteria” disease is spreading in Japan after the country eased Covid-era restrictions. Cases of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) have reached 977 by June 2 this year, surpassing the record 941 cases reported for all of last year, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, which has been monitoring the disease since 1999.

Group A Streptococcus (GAS), which typically causes swelling and sore throat (strep throat) in children due to the bacteria, can lead to rapid development of symptoms in some cases. These symptoms include limb pain and swelling, fever, low blood pressure, followed by necrosis, breathing problems, organ failure, and potentially death. People over 50 are more susceptible to the disease.

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“Most of the deaths happen within 48 hours,” explained Ken Kikuchi, a professor in infectious diseases at Tokyo Women’s Medical University. “As soon as a patient notices swelling in the foot in the morning, it can expand to the knee by noon, and they can die within 48 hours.”

Recent outbreaks have also been reported in other countries. In late 2022, at least five European nations notified the World Health Organization of an increase in cases of invasive group A streptococcus (iGAS) disease, which includes STSS. The WHO indicated that the rise in cases followed the easing of Covid restrictions.

If the current infection rate continues, the number of cases in Japan could reach 2,500 this year, with a mortality rate of 30%, which Kikuchi described as “terrifying.”

Kikuchi emphasized the importance of maintaining hand hygiene and treating any open wounds. He explained that patients may carry Group A Streptococcus (GAS) in their intestines, which could contaminate hands through feces.

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First published on: Jun 15, 2024 06:38 PM IST

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