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Surge in Deadly Flesh-Eating Bacterial Infections in Japan

June 19, Colombo (LNW): Japan is experiencing a record surge in cases of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS), a dangerous and highly fatal bacterial infection. As of June 2, the Health Ministry has reported 977 cases, surpassing last year’s record of 941 preliminary infections, marking the highest numbers since statistics began in 1999. This year alone, 77 deaths were recorded between January and March.

STSS, with a mortality rate of up to 30%, is a rare but severe infection that can escalate rapidly, causing fever, muscle pain, vomiting, low blood pressure, swelling, and multiple organ failure. Despite treatment, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that as many as three out of ten individuals with STSS may die from the infection.

Most cases of STSS are caused by group A streptococcus (GAS) bacteria, commonly responsible for fever and throat infections in children. In rare instances, the bacteria can produce toxins that enable it to invade the bloodstream, leading to severe illnesses like toxic shock. Strep A can also result in necrotizing fasciitis, a “flesh-eating” disease, which may necessitate limb amputation. Patients with compromised immune systems, such as those with cancer or diabetes, are particularly at risk.

The surge in invasive group A strep infections follows the relaxation of Covid-19 control measures like masking and social distancing, which had previously helped curb such infections. Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases reported 97 deaths from STSS last year, the second-highest in the past six years. Experts have yet to determine the exact cause behind the recent rise in cases.

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