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'The worst I've seen in about 30 years': Physicians concerned about severe strep throat infections

More strep tests are being done and coming back positive
Posted at 5:24 PM, Mar 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 11:14:55-05

WISCONSIN — A new health crisis is making children and adults sick. Physicians say strep throat cases this year are the worst they've seen in decades.

"This is the next big problem," said Dr. Gregory DeMuri, UW Health Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician.

With Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and flu cases declining, Dr. DeMuri said severe strep infections are alarmingly high, particularly among children.

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can cause a myriad of problems. Symptoms include a fever, sore throat, headache, etc.

Dr. DeMuri said he's never seen so many severe cases in three decades.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison's State Laboratory shows that during the week starting Feb. 18 about 40% of strep tests came back positive. The year's prior peak positivity rate stayed under 20%.

Children's Wisconsin and local clinics are also seeing similar increases.

Dr. DeMuri believes this is due to a new aggressive strain of strep and the lack of people not being exposed to the bacteria in years.

"It's just unusual to see any child in the hospital with a complication with strep," DeMuri stated.

Serious complications where the bacteria spreads into other parts of the body including the lungs.

He adds hospitals are operating very full, but are not overwhelmed.

Doctors say getting an early diagnosis combined with antibiotics can prevent severe illness.

DeMuri said the percent positivity rate has gone down in the last few weeks. He hopes to see the decline continue with the bacteria coming to an end when the school year ends.

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