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Group A Streptococcal Infections

Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a type of bacteria that is commonly found in the throat and on the skin. The bacteria can result in two types of illness:

  • Non-invasive Group A strep infection (GAS); or
  • Invasive Group A strep infection (iGAS).

Common non-invasive Group A strep infections (GAS) include milder illnesses such as Strep Throat, impetigo (type of skin infection) and scarlet fever.

Invasive Group A strep infections (iGAS) are more aggressive and cause severe illnesses such as necrotizing fasciitis (“flesh eating disease”), Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain) and bacteremia (infection of the bloodstream).

What You Need to Know About Group A Streptococcal Infection

GAS is spread through direct contact with droplets from the nose and throat of infected people, or from contact with an infected wound or sore on the skin. Symptoms start 1 to 3 days after coming in contact with the bacteria. You can get GAS through:

  • Living with an infected person
  • Having sexual intercourse with an infected person
  • Open mouth kissing, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with an infected person
  • Unprotected direct contact with an infected wound or sore on the skin
  • Sharing drug equipment (e.g., needles) with an infected person.

If you develop signs and symptoms seek medical attention. They might test your blood or swab the infected area.

Early GAS signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Rash or skin infection

Early iGAS signs and symptoms include:

  • Necrotizing fasciitis – fever, severe pain, redness and swelling of the infected area;
  • Meningitis - fever, severe headache, severe pain on movement of the neck, nausea and/or vomiting; or
  • Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome – low blood pressure and shock, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, red rash.

GAS infections are usually treatable by antibiotics. It is important to complete all the antibiotics even if your symptoms improve earlier. This prevents recurrence and reduces the risk of complications. A person is considered infectious until they have taken at least 24 hours of antibiotics.

iGAS infections require urgent medical attention. Treatment involves antibiotics and sometimes hospitalization and surgery.

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water or use alcohol-based hand rub (that has >60% alcohol content) especially:
    • before preparing or eating foods,
    • after coughing or sneezing, and
    • after using the bathroom or changing diapers
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or bend of the arm
  • Keep all wounds clean
  • Watch for signs and symptoms and seek medical attention if you think a wound is infected
  • Stay home when you are sick.

Protect yourself from chickenpox

  • The risk of getting a GAS infection is higher for people who are ill with chickenpox. Consider getting the Varicella vaccine if you have not had chickenpox in the past. The two-dose vaccine is publicly funded for children who are 15 months and 4-6 years of age.

Health Protection Division

The Healthy Unit offers immunizations clinics for those who don't have a family doctor.

Chat with someone from our Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Department for more information.

Phone: 1-866-888-4577 x 1507

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