Information for patients
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This leaflet tells you about Group A Streptococcal Infection, sometimes called GAS or Group A Strep.
What is Group A Streptococcus (GAS)?
Group A Streptococcus is a type of bacteria often found in the throat and on the skin, anal and genital areas. Many people carry GAS harmlessly and do not develop illness; this is known as colonisation.
What infections or illnesses can GAS cause?
Most infections and illness caused by GAS are mild, such as sore throats (strep throat) and skin infections (impetigo, cellulitis). Scarlet Fever is another disease caused by GAS. These infections are usually treated with antibiotics.
Rarely these bacteria can cause severe or life-threatening illness when the bacteria get past the body’s immune defences and into parts of the body they are not usually found, such as the blood, lungs, muscles or the birth canal after childbirth.
This is called invasive GAS disease and examples include blood infections, abscesses, necrotising fasciitis, and ‘Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome’.
How could I catch GAS?
GAS can be spread easily from person to person through close contact such as sneezing, kissing and skin contact. It can also be spread by contact with contaminated objects such as towels and bedding, and eating food contaminated by a carrier.
People with no signs of infection or illness are much less contagious than those with symptoms. Contracting invasive GAS disease from a relative or household member is very rare.
You can reduce the risk of picking up / spreading GAS by washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, particularly after going to the toilet, before eating and after contact with any wounds or skin rashes.
Pregnant women or those having gynaecology treatments are especially advised to wash their hands before and after going to the toilet. It is important to catch coughs and sneezes in tissues, quickly dispose of tissues after use and wash your hands.
Avoid sharing towels and bedding with other household members, and carry out regular personal hygiene. Frequent laundering of bedding and towels (at 60oC), and frequent cleaning of household surfaces and toilet areas can also help reduce the risk of spread.
Who is at most risk of invasive GAS disease?
Those at an increased risk of invasive GAS disease include:
- new born babies and older people over the age of 65
- people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, HIV or cancer
- those undergoing high dose steroid therapy
- those who have wounds or skin lesions
- those who have recently had chickenpox
- injecting drug users
- alcohol misusers
- pregnant women and women who have recently given birth.
What are the signs and symptoms of GAS infection?
The most common symptoms of GAS infection include:
- a sore throat, that usually comes on suddenly
- tonsils that are red or swollen and that may discharge pus
- swollen glands in the neck
- a skin infection (impetigo).
Early signs and symptoms of invasive GAS disease include:
- high fever (a high temperature above 38oC (100.4oF)
- severe muscle aches
- muscle tenderness in one area of the body
- redness at the site of a wound
- vomiting or diarrhoea.
What should I do if I have symptoms of invasive GAS disease?
You should contact your GP or get medical advice straight away if you think you have any of the signs and symptoms of invasive GAS disease. Tell your doctor if you have recently been in contact with someone who has had GAS.
Your GP will most likely ask you to come into the surgery to be examined. If you are too unwell to visit the surgery or it is closed, you should not delay seeking medical advice and should telephone 111 or 999 (if urgent).
How will I be cared for if I have invasive GAS disease?
GAS can be treated with antibiotics. In severe cases, an operation may be needed. If you are in hospital, you will most likely be looked after in a single room and the staff caring for you will wear aprons and gloves and, in some cases, a face mask. This is to help prevent the infection spreading to others.
Your visitors will be asked to wear aprons and gloves when they visit and to wash their hands before coming into / coming out of your room / helping you with personal care. Your Doctor will advise you if you need to continue taking antibiotics once you go home.
Do you have further questions or need further advice?
If you have any questions or worries, please talk to one of the ward doctors or nurses. They can arrange for you to speak with an infection prevention and control Nurse. If you are not a hospital patient, please see section below for links to further information/ advice, or seek advice from your GP.
Infection Prevention and Control Department
Telephone: 01642 383280
Opening hours: 8:30am to 4:30pm (Monday to Friday)
Telephone: 111 (when it is less urgent than 999).
Calls to this number are free from landlines and mobile phones or via the website.NHS Website
Further information / advice is available from:Sore Throat Tonsillitis Impetigo Scarlet Fever Necrotising Fasciitis Toxic Shock Syndrome
Comments, concerns, compliments or complaints
Patient Experience Team (PET)
We are continually trying to improve the services we provide. We want to know what we’re doing well or if there’s anything which we can improve, that’s why the Patient Experience Team (PET) is here to help. Our Patient Experience Team is here to try to resolve your concerns as quickly as possible. The office is based on the ground floor at the University Hospital of North Tees if you wish to discuss concerns in person. If you would like to contact or request a copy of our PET leaflet, please contact:
Telephone: 01642 624719
Freephone: 0800 092 0084
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 4:00pm
Email: [email protected]
Out of hours
Out of hours if you wish to speak to a senior member of Trust staff, please contact the hospital switchboard who will bleep the appropriate person.
Telephone: 01642 617617
Data protection and use of patient information
The Trust has developed Data Protection policies in accordance with Data Protection Legislation (UK General Data Protection Regulations and Data Protection Act 2018) and the Freedom of Information Act 2000. All of our staff respect these policies and confidentiality is adhered to at all times. If you require further information on how we process your information please see our Privacy Notices.
Telephone: 01642 383551
Email: nth-tr.info[email protected]Privacy Notices
This leaflet has been produced in partnership with patients and carers. All patient leaflets are regularly reviewed, and any suggestions you have as to how it may be improved are extremely valuable. Please write to the Clinical Governance team, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospital of North Tees, TS19 8PE or:
Email: [email protected]
Leaflet reference: PIL1326
Date for review: 11 August 2024