Flesh-Eating Bacteria Spreading Rapidly in Japan, Hundreds Infected

STSS is caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria, which are commonly known for causing mild infections like strep throat
The bacteria can quickly enter the bloodstream and organs, causing multi-organ failure within a short time. (Representational image: Wikimedia Commons)
The bacteria can quickly enter the bloodstream and organs, causing multi-organ failure within a short time. (Representational image: Wikimedia Commons) emic586

Cases of a deadly and uncommon illness brought on by germs that consume flesh are rapidly increasing in Japan, known as Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS). This alarming situation follows the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in the country. As of June 2, 2024, Japan has recorded 977 cases of STSS, surpassing last year’s total of 941 cases. Health experts warn that if this trend continues, the number of infections could reach 2,500 by the end of the year.

STSS is caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria, which are commonly known for causing mild infections like strep throat. However, in severe cases, these bacteria produce toxins that trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body. This response leads to rapid tissue damage, extreme pain, and shock. The bacteria can quickly enter the bloodstream and organs, causing multi-organ failure within a short time.

The first signs of STSS include vomiting, fever, and discomfort in the muscles. However, the condition can quickly escalate, with patients experiencing low blood pressure, swelling, and multiple organ failure. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even with treatment, STSS can be deadly, with a mortality rate of up to 30%. Most deaths occur within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Experts believe the rise in STSS cases in Japan may be linked to the weakened immune systems of people following the COVID-19 pandemic. Ken Kikuchi, a professor at Tokyo Women’s Medical University, explained that constant exposure to bacteria helps boost immunity, but this mechanism was absent during the pandemic. As a result, more people are now susceptible to infections, potentially contributing to the sharp increase in STSS cases.

Despite the fact that the current outbreak is centered in Japan, travel outside poses a risk for worldwide spread. (Representational image: Wikimedia Commons)
Despite the fact that the current outbreak is centered in Japan, travel outside poses a risk for worldwide spread. (Representational image: Wikimedia Commons)

The spread of STSS in Japan is a significant public health concern. The Japanese health authorities are actively monitoring the situation and working to control the spread of the infection. Public awareness campaigns are being conducted to inform people about the symptoms and severity of STSS, encouraging them to seek prompt medical care if symptoms appear. Hospitals are on high alert to identify and treat STSS cases quickly, and enhanced hygiene practices are being promoted.

Despite the fact that the current outbreak is centered in Japan, travel outside poses a risk for worldwide spread. Maintaining proper hygiene, such as washing both hands frequently and taking care of any skin injuries right once, is essential to preventing STSS. Early signs like sudden severe pain, high fever, and redness at a wound site should prompt immediate medical attention.

STSS has also been observed in other countries. In December 2022, five European nations reported an increase in invasive group A streptococci (iGAS) diseases, which include STSS. The World Health Organization noted that this rise followed the end of COVID-19 restrictions. The CDC has also reported a similar trend in the United States.

Japan’s health ministry is actively responding to the outbreak. Public health measures, including monitoring and rapid response to new cases, are essential to contain the spread of this dangerous infection. The exact reason for this year’s rise in STSS cases remains unclear, with experts unsure how the bacteria entered the body in nearly half of the reported cases. The rapid progression and high mortality rate of STSS make it a critical issue for public health.

(Input from various sources)

(Rehash/ Susmita Bhandary/MSM)

The bacteria can quickly enter the bloodstream and organs, causing multi-organ failure within a short time. (Representational image: Wikimedia Commons)
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