A bacterium found in the throat and skin could have been a contributing factor in the recent death of a 4-year-old girl, according to officials from the West Central Health District.
In the incident's aftermath, they urge local residents to monitor their health.
"Know what your normal state of health is. What you're looking for is something unusual," West Central Health District epidemiologist Eileen Usman said Tuesday.
The child, a resident of Columbus, died over the weekend, Usman said. She said meningitis was not the cause of death.
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Usman could not say the exact cause of the child's death, but said Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is among the infections in the community and laboratory results confirmed the deceased child had GAS.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls GAS "a bacterium often found in the throat and on the skin."
"These bacteria are spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of persons who are infected or through contact with infected wounds or sores on the skin," according to CDC information.
Most GAS infections result in somewhat mild illnesses like strep throat, but occasionally GAS can cause severe and life-threatening diseases, the CDC notes.
Officials from the West Central Health District, which encompasses 16 counties and a population of nearly 400,000, emphasize basic precautions like hand-washing and staying home from work or school when ill.
There is no vaccine for GAS, but GAS infections are often treated with antibiotics. GAS symptoms vary, but can include fever, vomiting and occasionally a rash, Usman said.
Approximately 9,000-11,500 cases of invasive GAS disease happen each year in the U.S., leading to 1,000-1,800 deaths annually, the CDC reports.
Officials from the West Central Health District said on average, they see one to two cases of invasive GAS disease per month. With the case of the 4-year-old excluded, there have been no GAS deaths within the West Central Health District in the last 12 months, officials said.
The CDC notes, "Few people who come in contact with GAS will develop invasive GAS disease."