A significant jump in the number of deaths caused by a common bacterial infection in Queensland has sparked a state-wide alert to all doctors and hospitals.
The alert comes after a child became the seventh person to die from group A streptococcus infection this year.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says there have been 265 cases of the infection this year, 1.6 times the five-year average.
“Normally we’d see two to four deaths in a year and see around 200 cases,” Dr Young said.
“So there is something going on which is why I think it’s important to alert general practitioners and emergency departments to be aware and to consider the patient might have this infection.”
It is impossible to give a reason for the spike, she said.
“We see disease profiles go up and down.”
Flu can be much worse one year than the next.
“It’s true with bacteria in general, it’s very hard to know why but we’ve seen the data,” she said.
“It may not mean anything for whatever reason we’ve got these cases but maybe there is something there.”
A four-year-old boy from Caboolture died earlier this week at the Mater Hospital.
The hospital said he had “overwhelming septic shock”.
Two men in their 90s who died at Greenslopes Private Hospital’s rehabilitation centre last week also had the bacteria in their system.
The other four deaths occurred earlier in the year at various locations, Dr Young said.
Acting director of the Metro North Public Health Unit Dr Madhumati Chatterji said officials were in contact with the four-year-old boy’s family and the childcare centre he attended.
“Appropriate preventive measures are being undertaken,” Dr Chatterji said, adding the risk of infection from casual contact was small.
The bacteria is often found in the throat and on the skin and can cause minor symptoms such as a sore throat.
But in rare cases it invades the bloodstream or the lungs and causes life-threatening illnesses, typically in people with already poor health.