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Severe Strep Infections

Some types of group A strep bacteria cause severe infections, such as

  • Bacteremia (bloodstream infections)
  • Toxic shock syndrome (multi-organ infection)
  • Necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease)

Those at the greatest risk of getting a severe strep infection are

  • Children with chickenpox
  • People with suppressed immune systems
  • Burn victims
  • Elderly people with cellulitis, diabetes, blood vessel disease, or cancer
  • People taking steroid treatments or chemotherapy
  • Intravenous drug users

Severe group A strep disease may also occur in healthy people who have no known risk factors.


Depending on the specific strep infection, symptoms can include

  • Fever
  • Severe pain and swelling
  • Redness at the site of a wound
  • Rash over large areas of the body
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion


Severe group A strep infections are diagnosed by healthcare providers using a combination of clinical and laboratory test results.

All severe group A strep infections may lead to shock, organ failure, and death. Therefore, healthcare providers must diagnose and treat such infections quickly.


Antibiotics used to treat these severe infections include penicillin, erythromycin, and clindamycin. If you have severe tissue damage, your healthcare provider may need to remove the tissue surgically or amputate the limb.

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Last Updated March 04, 2009