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Strep A: NSW one-year-old loses legs to devastating infection as case numbers spike

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A one-year-old boy in NSW has had to have limbs amputated as a result of a devastating illness spreading in Australia.

Despite losing both legs and facing the possibility of losing his fingers, Ryan Lines continues to fight the Strep A infection that took hold of his body.

Ryan’s journey began with a runny nose, but quickly escalated into a life-threatening situation when he went into septic shock. His parents, Jessica and Sam Lines, acted quickly and brought him to a hospital in Broken Hill, NSW on December 8th.

There, Ryan suffered a cardiac arrest for 10 minutes, but was fortunately revived by the medical team.

Despite initial predictions of brain damage and the loss of facial features, Ryan was flown to the Women‘s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide for further treatment.

He has been there for 62 days, undergoing surgery to amputate both legs below the knee and preparing for more surgeries to remove his fingertips.

Ryan’s mother shared her shock and heartbreak at the rapid deterioration of her son’s condition, starting from what seemed like a minor illness.

“I noticed Ryan had a runny nose, temperature, and was very limp and lethargic. This is what made me take him to the hospital,” Mrs Ryan said via the Daily Mail.

“After he cardiac arrested we were told that we could be looking at worst case, where Ryan would have serve brain damage, lose parts of his face and his full legs and hands — thankfully that’s not the case.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the young family, with donators digging deep and raising over $100,000 in one month.

Cases of Strep A, also known as group A Streptococcus, have doubled in Western Australia in the past three months and Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have all seen a spike in cases too.

The bacteria, which can be found in the throat and skin, can be deadly if left untreated.

Parents are urged to be on the lookout for symptoms like a sore throat, fever, dizziness, headache, and abdominal pain, and to seek medical help immediately upon noticing them.

The illness can be fatal within hours, said Jonathan Carapetis, executive director of Telethon Kids Institute.

“I’d describe it as the nastiest bug you’ve probably never heard of… it’s the sort of bug that can kill you in hours,” Professor Carapetis told The West Australian last week.

“If a kid is getting sick very quickly, that’s a potential emergency and you don’t wait until tomorrow to see the GP, you take them straight to the emergency department. Literally, children can go to bed and never wake up.”

Strep A claims the lives of over 600,000 people globally each year.

At least 190 people died from the condition in England over their ongoing winter, including 30 children.

One-hundred and thirty-seven cases of invasive group A streptococcus were recorded in NSW between September and December, while there were 36 cases of meningococcal disease over the whole of 2022.

Two children died with Strep A in 2022 in Victoria, with 60 more kids hospitalised.

Some common infections caused by Strep A include streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat), skin infections like impetigo and cellulitis, and invasive infections like necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.

Infections can be spread through direct contact with an infected person, or through contact with contaminated surfaces.

Strep A infections are usually treated with antibiotics, and people with a weakened immune system are at higher risk of developing severe infections.

Prevention measures include washing hands regularly, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and promptly treating skin infections to prevent them from spreading.

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