NewsRise in deadly bacterial infection grips Japan, experts baffled

Rise in deadly bacterial infection grips Japan, experts baffled

Increase in STSS cases
Increase in STSS cases
Images source: © PAP | Darek Delmanowicz
Mateusz Dolak

17 June 2024 20:29

A dangerous bacterium causing streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) is spreading in Japan. As of June 2, the number of cases reached 977, which is more than the entire previous year. The latest available data indicates that between January and March, around 77 people died due to the infection.

According to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK, why this year's increase in STSS cases in Japan remains unclear.

STSS stands for streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. People over the age of 50 are most susceptible to this infection.

Bacterial infections can lead to the rapid development of symptoms such as limb pain and swelling, fever, low blood pressure, breathing problems, or organ failure.

“At the current infection rate, the number of cases in Japan may reach 2,500 this year, with a mortality rate of 30 percent,” said Ken Kikuchi, a professor of infectious diseases at Tokyo Medical University for Women, in an interview with "The Japan Times." He added that "most deaths occur within 48 hours."

“As soon as a patient notices swelling of the foot in the morning, by the afternoon it can spread to the knee and the patient may die within 48 hours,” explained Kikuchi.

Highest rate since 1999

The ongoing epidemic in Japan has already surpassed last year's record of 941 initial infections—the highest since statistics began being kept in 1999. The Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases recorded 97 deaths due to STSS last year.

Most cases of STSS are caused by group A streptococcal bacteria. In rare cases, group A strep can become invasive when the bacterium produces a toxin that allows it to enter the bloodstream, causing severe illnesses such as toxic shock.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people infected with STSS also had other underlying conditions that may have weakened the body's ability to fight the infection.

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