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Get flu shot to limit risk of rare cases of invasive, deadly Strep A: doctor

Annual data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows a record number of bacterial infections that have been deadly in rare cases, especially among children.

The agency says that as of last week, its lab detected an invasive Group A streptococcal infection in more than 4,600 samples that provinces sent last year to its lab.

It says that is the highest annual number of invasive Group A strep samples submitted, with the previous peak of 3,236 samples in 2019, before the pandemic.

The BC Centre for Disease Control issued a statement last month saying cases among people under 20 were more than double the usual number, and Public Health Ontario said last week that six children below the age of 10 had died as of Dec. 31.

An infectious diseases expert says lower-than-usual uptake of the flu vaccine in much of Canada may be partly responsible for the higher numbers.

Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, says the likelihood of an infection is higher when people are already sick with influenza or another respiratory illness.

He says a secondary infection of Group A strep could lead to sepsis, blood infections and even death, particularly for people who may already have a chronic condition, but it’s not too late to get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2024.

Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

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