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Item ID: MON19   Source ID: 2

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Group A streptococcal infections are caused by group A streptococcus, a bacterium responsible for a variety of health problems. These infections can range from mild skin infection or sore throat to invasive, life-threatening conditions such as toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis. Most people are familiar with strep throat, which along with minor skin infection, is the most common form of the disease. Experts estimate that more than 10 million mild infections like these occur every year.

In addition to step throat and superficial skin infections, group A strep bacteria can cause infections in tissues at specific body sites, including lungs, bones, spinal cord, and the abdominal cavity.

What are cellulitis and erysipelas?
Cellulitis is inflammation of the skin and deep underlying tissues. Erysipelas is an inflammatory disease of the upper layers of the skin. Group A streptococcus is the most common cause of both conditions.

What are the symptoms of cellulitis and erysipelas?
Cellulitis is inflammation of the skin and deep underlying tissues. Erysipelas is an inflammatory disease of the upper layers of the skin. Group A streptococcus is the most common cause of both conditions.

With erysipelas, a fiery red rash with raised borders may occur on the face, arms, or legs. Skin will be hot, red, and have sharply defined raised areas. The infection may come back, causing chronic swelling of arms or legs (lymphedema).

How does a person get cellulitis or erysipelas?
Both cellulitis and erysipelas begin with minor trauma, such as a bruise. It can also begin at the site of a burn, surgical incision, or wound, and usually affects an arm or leg. When the rash appears on the trunk, arms, or legs, however, it is usually at the site of a surgical incision or wound. People who have no symptoms, but carry the germ on their skin or in their nasal passages, can transmit the disease.

How are these skin infections diagnosed and what is the treatment?
The doctor may take a sample or culture from skin lesions to identify the bacteria causing infection. He or she may also recover the bacteria from the infected person's blood. Depending on how severe the infection is, treatment involves either oral or intravenous antibiotics.

Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
August 2000.



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