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A deadly infection is on the rise in Japan

The country has already recorded more cases of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome this year than it did in the whole of 2023
  • The infection has a very high mortality rate and can cause multiple organ failures within days of symptoms developing

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UPDATED: 20 Jun 2024, 8:14 am

Japan is in the middle of an outbreak of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) infection, according to multiple media reports. A rapidly progressing bacterial infection that can lead to organ failures, STSS has a fatality rate of around 30 percent. 

As of early June, Japan’s Health Ministry had recorded 977 cases of STSS – surpassing last year’s record of 941 cases. There were 77 fatalities as a result of the infection in the country between January and March, representing 80 percent of 2023’s tally in just three months.

The infection, which targets the bloodstream and deep tissues, is rare and difficult to diagnose. Patients initially suffer from fever, muscle pains and vomiting. Even with treatment, STSS can kill within days. 

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It is associated with skin burns and abrasions, recent surgery, tampon usage and viral infections including the flu and chickenpox, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While Japan’s health authorities have yet to identify any reason for the country’s spike in STSS cases, professor Ken Kikuchi, of Tokyo Women’s Medical University, told local media it could be due to weakened immune systems following Covid-19.

Kikuchi noted that people’s immunity mechanisms worked best with constant exposure to bacteria – something that paused for many during the pandemic. “So, more people are now susceptible to infection, and that may be one reason for the sharp rise in cases,” he said.

UPDATED: 20 Jun 2024, 8:14 am

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