Strep cases on the rise in Arizona

Strep cases on the rise
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 7:54 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Health experts are warning about a rise in strep throat infections among children and their parents.

Two kids in Colorado, and 15 in the United Kingdom have died recently from complications of strep.

In Arizona, cases of strep are up including here in Pima County.

Strep normally causes mild illness, but a small number of cases can become serious when bacteria known as strep A, that’s commonly found in the throat spreads to other parts of the body.

Dr. Chadi Berjaoui with Carondelet Medical Group in Tucson says a rise in RSV, flu, and COVID-19 cases has contributed to an increase in strep cases.

“It can cause things like fever, headaches, nausea, and your common sore throat,” said Dr. Berjaoui. “In severe cases abdominal pain and even vomiting.”

Someone with strep throat may also have a rash known as scarlet fever. Children and adolescents ages five to 15 are most susceptible to strep. But one in 10 adults can get it too. It’s transmitted through respiratory droplets or direct contact.

“So we do see those in much more crowded places, schools, military settings and daycares,” said Dr. Berjaoui.

Around the state 1,228 cases of strep were reported in 2022. An increase of 27% from the year prior. There were 966 cases in 2021 according to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

While Maricopa county saw the highest number of cases, 750 last year. Pima County saw 252 cases in 2022. Cases are 51% higher when compared to the past five years in Pima County.

We reached out to several school districts to see if students are being affected, and what’s being done to prevent the spread.

A spokesperson for TUSD tells us they don’t track strep cases. We’re told that Sunnyside school nurses are not seeing any. The Marana district is not seeing a significant increase in students with strep. Amphi schools did not respond to our request.

Since January first, 27 cases of strep have been reported in Pima County. While there is no vaccine to prevent it, doctors recommend practicing good hygiene.

“It’s really important that if you have a child who might have a potential strep case to at least talk to your doctor about it and get a thorough evaluation,” said Dr. Berjaoui. “Because the complications can be pretty severe if not treated appropriately.”

Antibiotics can help prevent someone with strep from spreading the bacteria to others. But right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting a national shortage of amoxicillin. The shortage is expected to last several months. Experts say, that’s even more reason to see a doctor sooner rather than later, to be tested, and to find alternative medications.