More children are getting strep while a popular antibiotic is still in short supply.
In the health industry, peculiar patterns often raise eyebrows. The latest buzz centers around the notable surge in strep throat cases among children throughout the United States. While strep throat is no stranger to the medical arena, the sudden uptick in diagnoses is causing quite a stir. The situation becomes even more pressing as the supply of amoxicillin, a widely relied upon antibiotic in treatment, especially for strep, faces potential scarcity.
Strep throat, originating from the Group A Streptococcus bacterium, is distinguished by the classic symptoms of a sore throat, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Yet, the current spike in strep cases among generally healthy children and adults is leaving healthcare professionals pondering the cause.
The precise trigger behind the strep throat revival remains shrouded in mystery. Nonetheless, experts speculate that the ripples of the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a role. The pandemic disrupted the predictable ebb and flow of seasonal ailments, including RSV and the flu, potentially compromising the immune systems of both children and adults. Moreover, widespread use of face masks and social distancing measures could have inadvertently contributed to the spread of strep bacteria.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), strep throat cases have been mounting since August 2022. Also, according to the CDC, strep throat is common among the 5 to 15 age group. Strep throat is a commonplace infection, in general. The CDC estimates that each year, approximately 5 million outpatient visits can be attributed to noninvasive Group A strep. Typical strep throat symptoms manifest within 2-5 days after encountering the bacteria and can linger for up to a week.
The shortage of amoxicillin has caused an uptick in anxiety as those caring for children with strep are forced to search for effective alternative treatments. Furthermore, the shortage has reignited concerns about the ominous specter of antibiotic resistance.
With winter’s approach, vigilance is key when it comes to following standard hygiene guidelines. Healthcare professionals are asking parents to remain watchful for telltale strep throat symptoms and promptly seek medical guidance if any such signs emerge. Keeping children who have strep home from school is important to limit its spread.
Simultaneously, the FDA and pharmaceutical companies are under the spotlight, urged to address the amoxicillin shortage, either by augmenting production or identifying alternative sources for the medication. As of October 2023, the shortage still persists. Although this doesn’t affect capsules and tablets of the drug, kids are most commonly prescribed liquid antibiotics because this is the easiest form to ingest, and the shortage impacts liquids.
It is important to note that there are safe alternatives to antibiotics, such as probiotics and herbal remedies, which can be used to both prevent and treat strep and other respiratory ailments. For example, a 2018 study found that children who received probiotics had fewer respiratory infections in general and required fewer antibiotics each year. Probiotics also have fewer side effects and don’t cause antibiotic resistance.