New data shows strep cases have reached 6-year high

New data shows strep cases have reached 6-year high
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 12:05 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - New data says strep throat cases have reached a six-year high.

The sharp increase comes as the federal COVID-19 health emergency nears its end.

The new study is by health analytics firm Epic Research shows strep throat levels have continually risen since 2022, as COVID-19 restrictions loosened nationwide.

Lexington physician Dr. Jeff Foxx says three years after its initial outbreak we’re still feeling the side effects of the pandemic. Like other infectious diseases, strep throat cases dropped off during the COVID pandemic.

However, the new report reveals that strep hit a level this February that was 30 percent higher than its pre-pandemic peak in 2017.

Dr. Foxx says it’s not surprising to see it come back.

“During the pandemic we masked, we washed our hands; we paid attention to social distancing, we didn’t get in big gatherings. That’s going away now,” said Dr. Foxx. “So strep, when it starts, people aren’t paying as much attention. So, people spread it to other people, and it goes from there.”

Strep throat is especially affecting children ages 4 to 13, but all age groups have seen an increase.

A similar resurgence of RSV and flu cases occurred this past fall and Dr. Foxx says that could be leaving people open to other infections like strep.

“The flu and strep are not related. They’re two different organisms,” said Dr. Foxx. “But, if you have the flu, you can have more secretions, you can have weakened immune systems. So, it makes you more vulnerable to catching a strep infection.”

Strep throat is very treatable with antibiotics but if it’s left untreated, it can spark more serious issues like rheumatic fever, kidney disease and more. So, Dr. Foxx says it’s important to take steps quickly with this infection.