Flesh-eating bacteria cases rise in Japan post-Covid restrictions

Flesh-eating bacteria cases rise in Japan post-Covid restrictions
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A lethal disease from rare “flesh-eating” bacteria, capable of causing death within 48 hours, is spreading in Japan after the easing of restrictions from the Covid-era, Kazinform News Agency correspondent reports.

Cases of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) reached 977 this year by June 2, higher than the record 941 cases reported for all of last year, according to the National Institute of Infectious Disease, which has been tracking incidents of the disease since 1999.

Group A Streptococcus (GAS) typically causes swelling and sore throat in children known as “strep throat”, but some types of the bacteria can lead to symptoms of developing rapidly, including limb pain and swelling, fever, low blood pressure, that can be followed by necrosis, breathing problems, organ failure and death. People over 50 are at a higher risk for the disease.

“Most of the deaths happen within 48 hours. As soon as a patient notices swelling in the foot in the morning, it can expand to the knee by noon, and they can die within 48 hours,” said Ken Kikuchi, a professor in infectious diseases at Tokyo Women's Medical University, quoted by the local media.

Outbreaks of these particular bacteria have been reported in various countries. In late 2022, at least five European nations notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of cases of GAS disease, which includes STSS. The WHO stated that the sudden increase in cases of the flesh-eating bacteria followed after the removal of Covid restrictions.

At the current rate of infections, the number of cases in Japan could reach 2,500 this year, with a “terrifying” mortality rate of 30%, Kikuchi said.

A health expert recommends washing hands and treating wounds properly to prevent the spread of bacteria. He said patients may carry GAS in their intestines, which could contaminate hands through feces.

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