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St. Louis infectious diseases pediatrician talks risks of contracting 'Group A strep'

St. Louis infectious diseases pediatrician goes over the risks of contracting Group A strep, which can be fatal.

ST. LOUIS — If you've had it, then you know the pain of strep throat. In rare cases the bacteria, Group A strep, can be fatal.

Two children in central Illinois contracted the invasive bacteria this past month and died.

Washington University Pediatric Infectious Diseases Physician Dr. Jason Newland said he wants parents to know, strep throat leading to death is incredibly rare.

We know the basic symptoms of strep throat, sore throat, fever and enlarged lymph nodes. "We see it more in children," explains Dr. Newland. "We see it more during the wintertime."

But what Dr. Newland hasn't seen is a case of strep throat turning into the deadly invasive bacterial infection from Group A, "Those are on the rare side and those don't usually start with a strep throat."

For Group A to be fatal, it has to get into the bloodstream and into the lungs.

The signs to watch for are basic Dr. Newland said, "Which is my child has potentially high fever, might be having trouble breathing, might not be acting like themselves meaning that you try to talk to them and they are not responding appropriately."

At that point, Dr. Newland said it's time to go to the doctor. He said strep throat is an easy test with a throat swab. If it's the invasive bacterial strep, then Dr. Newland said a blood test is drawn to check for the disease. 

The treatment for an infection from the Group A bacteria is tried and true. 

"The treatment is fantastic and it's easy," Dr. Newland told 5 On Your Side. "It's an antibiotic called penicillin." 

Currently, Group A is not resistant to penicillin, penicillin has worked for years.

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