Doctor's warning over 'nasty' infection on the rise in Australia

Queensland has so far been hit the hardest as more and more cases pop up across the country.

A Queensland doctor has warned of a nasty bacterial infection surging across Australia that starts with a sore throat and fever.

Dr Sarah McNamee told Yahoo News Australia cases of Group A Streptococcus are increasing this year and people can become "very unwell, very quickly".

Symptoms to look out for include, "a sore throat, maybe some fevers, and maybe a wide spread, sandpaper rash."

This contagious infection is hitting Queensland the hardest, with children, the elderly, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities most at risk of severe infection.

"In my personal practice, I've seen an increase in both kids and adults, and am seeing more cases now than I have seen in previous years," Dr Sarah McNamee told Yahoo News.

Strep throat can also lead to scarlet fever in some cases. Source: Getty
Strep throat can also lead to scarlet fever in some cases. Source: Getty

Data shared last month in an article published by medical journal The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific, showed there has been, "an intense and unseasonal surge in invasive Group A Streptococcus occurring from mid-2022," in Aussie children and young people under the age of 18.

Strep throat caused by bacterial infection

Strep throat is an infection caused by the bacteria, Group A Streptococcus (GAS), making it different to other common sore throats — which are caused by viral infections, like the flu.

GAS can also cause other infections, like scarlet fever, impetigo and cellulitis.

Dr Adam Irwin, Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Queensland, told Yahoo News Australia earlier this year GAS is "one of the most common bacterial infections that children will experience” and, for the most part, “causes mild or self-limiting infections".

Despite this, it can sometimes become severe and cause hospitalisation, so seeking advice from a GP if symptomatic is always recommended, says Dr McNamee. If GAS is the cause for infection, antibiotics will be required.

Group A Streptococcus infections are linked to more than 500,000 deaths around the world each year, according to the World Health Organisation.

Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Group A Streptococcus. Source: Getty
Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Group A Streptococcus. Source: Getty

Strep A: What to look out for

Strep throat symptoms can include:

  • sore throat

  • fever

  • pain swallowing

  • chills

Scarlet fever can also develop in some people who are infected with strep throat and is a red, sandpaper like rash.

Dr Irwin told Yahoo signs of a severe disease include difficulty breathing, drowsiness, unexplained pain and cool and blotchy skin.

How to know if it's strep throat or a cold

Looking at symptoms is the first way to tell if someone is infected with strep throat rather than a cold or flu.

Dr McNamee said a warning sign is "if you are not getting the runny nose, the cough, and the other viral symptoms that we tend to see with the viruses that cause a viral [infection]."

A throat swab by a GP is required to formally test for strep throat, to see if Group A Streptococcus bacteria is present.

"If you are having nasty sore throat symptoms it's really worthwhile to go to your doctor... That way we can work out what treatments actually are going to be best for you," Dr McNamee said.

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