Japan on high alert as 'flesh-eating bacteria' outbreak spreads rapidly

Japan on high alert as 'flesh-eating bacteria' outbreak spreads rapidly

A rapidly spreading outbreak of a "flesh-eating bacteria" is causing alarm across Japan, with health officials reporting close to 1,000 cases of the potentially fatal Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) so far this year.

As of June 2nd, Japan has reported 977 cases of STSS in 2024, already surpassing last year's total of 941 cases within just the first six months, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. The capital Tokyo has been hit particularly hard, with 145 cases reported in just the first half of 2024.

STSS is a severe illness caused by invasive Group A Streptococcus bacteria, the same bacteria responsible for strep throat infections. However, certain strains can trigger rapidly progressing symptoms like fever, low blood pressure, limb pain, swelling, and ultimately organ failure and death if left untreated.

"Most of the deaths happen within 48 hours," warned Dr. Ken Kikuchi, an infectious disease professor at Tokyo Women's Medical University. "As soon as a patient notices swelling in their foot in the morning, it can expand to the knee by noon, and they can die within 48 hours."

The majority of cases have impacted adults over 30 years old, with a staggering 30% mortality rate reported so far for this aggressive flesh-eating bacterial infection. Health authorities are urgently investigating the causes behind this year's spike in cases as the outbreak shows no signs of slowing.

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