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Group A Streptococcal Infections - Impetigo

Group A Streptococcal Infections - Impetigo Loading image. Please wait...

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 strep 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 is impetigo?
Impetigo is an infection of the top layers of the skin and is most common among children ages 2 to 6. It usually starts when the bacteria get into a cut, scratch, or insect bite. Impetigo is usually caused by staphylococcus, a different bacterium, but can be caused by group A streptococcus. Different types of streptococci than those that cause strep throat usually cause skin infections. Therefore, the types of streptococci that cause impetigo are usually different from those that cause strep throat.

What are the symptoms of impetigo?
Symptoms start with red sores or pimple-like lesions (sores) surrounded by reddened skin These lesions can be anywhere on the body, but are found mostly on the face, arms, and legs. Lesions fill with pus, then break open after a few days and form a thick crust. Itching is common. The doctor can diagnose the infection by looking at the skin lesions.

How is impetigo spread?
The infection is spread by direct contact with wounds or sores or nasal discharge from an infected person. Scratching may spread the lesions. From the time of infection until a person shows symptoms is usually a period of 1 to 3 days. Dried streptococci in the air are not infectious to skin with no breaks.

What is the treatment for impetigo?
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, as with strep throat. He or she may also prescribe an antibiotic ointment.

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

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