Deadly Flesh-Eating Bacterial Outbreak Hits Japan

( – Japanese medics are puzzled by the rise of a deadly bacteria. The flesh-eating microbe has surged over the last few years, and 2024 has already set a new record number of cases less than six months in. Now, it looks like the disease is becoming more common in the US, too.

Japan is one of the healthiest countries in the world. It has an average life expectancy of 84 years, the highest of any nation and almost seven years higher than the US. Now, however, the country is facing a mysterious increase in cases of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS). This disease is caused by Group-A Streptococcus bacteria, which many people carry on their skin or in their throats without problems, but if the bacteria gets into our bloodstream, it can quickly cause STSS. The consequences of STSS can be dire; sometimes it develops into necrotizing fasciitis, the so-called “flesh-eating bacteria” syndrome, and it can even cause rapid and potentially lethal organ failure. In some outbreaks, up to 30% of victims die.

Last year, Japan had 941 cases of STSS, the highest number ever, but 2024 has already smashed that record. Since January the Japanese Health Ministry has listed 1,019 cases, and 77 deaths. So far, doctors haven’t worked out why the disease is surging, but some are speculating that lockdowns during the 2020 pandemic could have weakened people’s immune systems.

The CDC has also been tracking a rise in STSS infections, dating back over 18 months. The agency first warned that cases were rising in December 2022. The CDC said it was too soon to say if there was a real spike or the disease was just returning to pre-pandemic levels. Common symptoms of STSS include dizziness, blurred vision, and abnormally rapid breathing and heart rate. Those who think their symptoms may match those should contact a health professional immediately.

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