There is a new and more toxic strain of Strep causing outbreaks of scarlet fever in Britain. Experts are saying we can expect it to arrive stateside as well.

The term ‘strep’ refers to a group of bacteria known as Group A streptococcus or group A strep. It is commonly found in the throat and on the skin and can lead to different kinds of infections including scarlet fever – perhaps the most well-known being strep throat.

So how is this train different from the best in Group A? It’s notable because of the uptick in scarlet fever cases. The number of reported cases was around 15,000 in 2014. By 2016 that number jumped to over 19,000. That’s a jump of over 25%.

This sparked an investigation where researchers discovered that a particular strain of strep had changed. This new strain was found to have 27 small mutations and is being dubbed M1UK. As the process of the evolution goes, scientists say this strain is better fitted to its environment (your throat).  It’s better suited to cause infections and can make more of the scarlet fever toxin.

Good News: Antibiotics Can Cure The Infection

Though infections often peak between March and May, parents should stay on the lookout for these symptoms: sore throats, fevers, swelling lymph nodes, congestion or a red rash will present if they have scarlet fever.

Both scarlet fever and strep throat are transmitted through sneezing or coughing. It can also be transferred by touching or sharing objects contaminated with the bacteria. That is why it is always important to make sure kids pracitce proper hygiene such as hand washing and covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze.

If a strep infection goes untreated the bacteria can spread through the body by entering the blood or tissue. This can lead to sepsis, toxic shock, or even death.

Strep Is Deadly

In the United States, the number of cases of invasive strep ranges from 11,000 to 15,000 each year with around 1,500 deaths. Most cases of strep throat and scarlet fever are considered to be mild infections. Despite the pain and discomfort, it is fairly mild illness. However, rare complications can happen such as kidney disease or Rheumatic Fever.

So if you think your child may have strep, please make sure to take them to their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

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