Streptococcal Infections (cont.)

Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever is another form of group A strep disease that can follow strep throat. It is usually contagious and lasts for a specific length of time whether or not it is treated.

Symptoms of scarlet fever

In addition to the symptoms of strep throat, a red rash appears on the sides of your chest and abdomen. It may spread to cover most of your body. This rash appears as tiny, red pinpoints and has a rough texture like sandpaper. When pressed on, the rash loses color or turns white. There may also be dark red lines in the folds of skin. You may get a bright strawberry-red tongue and flushed (rosy) face, while the area around your mouth remains pale. The skin on the tips of your fingers and toes often peels after you get better. If you have a severe case, you may have a high fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Transmission of scarlet fever

You can get scarlet fever the same way as strep throat-through direct contact with throat mucus, nasal discharge, and saliva of an infected person.

Treatment for scarlet fever

Like strep throat, your health care provider will treat scarlet fever with antibiotics.

Severe strep infections

Some types of group A strep bacteria cause severe infections. These include

In 2004, 3,833 cases of severe group A streptococcal disease were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All severe group A strep infections may lead to shock, organ failure, and death. Health care providers must recognize and treat such infections quickly.

Health care providers diagnose these infections by looking at blood counts and doing urine tests as well as cultures of blood or fluid from a wound site.

Antibiotics used to treat these severe infections include penicillin, erythromycin, and clindamycin. If you have severe tissue damage, your health care provider may need to remove the tissue surgically or amputate the limb.

People at the greatest risk of getting a severe strep infection are

  • Children with chickenpox
  • People with suppressed immune systems
  • Burn victims
  • Elderly people with cellulitis, diabetes, blood vessel disease, or cancer
  • People taking steroid treatments or chemotherapy
  • Intravenous drug users

Severe group A strep disease may also occur in healthy people who have no known risk factors.


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