'Flesh-Eating Bacteria' Disease Spreads In Japan, Kills People Within 2 Days

'Flesh-Eating Bacteria' Disease Spreads In Japan, Kills People Within

A deadly outbreak of a 'flesh-eating bacteria' is spreading rapidly across Japan. Health institutions have raised the alarm about how quickly it can lead to death.

Nearly 1,000 cases of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) have been reported in the Asian country this year, and doctors warn that the symptoms can be fatal within 48 hours.

As of June 2, Japan reported 977 STSS cases, already surpassing last year's total of 941 cases within the first six months of 2024, according to the country's National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Local newspaper Asahi Shimbun reports that the outbreak has particularly hit Tokyo, with 145 cases in the first half of this year. Most cases are reported in adults over the age of 30, and the fatality rate is about 30 percent.

The disease is a response to Group A Streptococcus (GAS), the same bacteria that causes strep in children. Certain types of bacteria can lead to the rapid development of symptoms such as fever, low blood pressure, limb pain and swelling. If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to necrosis, organ failure, difficulty breathing, and even death.

"Most deaths occur within 48 hours," Ken Kikuchi, a professor of infectious diseases at Tokyo Women's Medical University, said in an interview with Bloomberg.

"Once a patient notices swelling in the leg in the morning, it can spread to the knee, by noon, and they can die within 48 hours."

Kikuchi warns that with this rate of infection, the number of cases in Japan could rise to more than 2,500 cases this year. Individuals over 50 are particularly susceptible to serious illness and death, health officials warn.

Treatment for STSS includes high-dose IV antibiotics and supportive care, but prompt attention and intervention is essential.

According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the best defense against GAS and STSS is good hygiene, including washing your hands, treating any infection promptly, and keeping an eye on any wounds, cuts, or skin infections.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that 'people with an open wound are at increased risk for STSS', including those recovering from surgery, as well as those with viral infections that cause open wounds.

Around the world, other countries have also reported an increase in GAS and iGAS infections, following the pandemic. In late 2022, at least five European countries reported an increase in GAS cases to the World Health Organization, coinciding with the lifting of COVID restrictions in each country.