Guarding Against Streptococcus in Nursing Homes

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention are recommending the long-term care facilities beef up infection prevention measures to guard against group A streptococcus (GAS).

According to the CDC’s website, GAS is a bacterium often found in the throat and on the skin. Some people may carry group A streptococci and have no symptoms of illness. The bacteria is spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of persons who are infected or through contact with infected wounds or sores on the skin.

A recent report printed in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said that in September 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Health was notified of a cluster of invasive GAS infections among residents of a skilled nursing facility specializing in neurologic and pulmonary care.

In an article on, the CDC’s report said, “The investigators determined that, during Oct. 12, 2009 to Sept. 22, 2010, at the facility, 10 residents had non-invasive Group A Streptococcus infection and 13 had invasive Group A Streptococcus infection; two residents with invasive infection died.” The report continued by saying, “The investigation identified infection prevention lapses and an association between two or more wounds and Group A Streptococcus infection.”

According to the CDC’s website, those most at risk to develop invasive GAS disease are people with chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and chronic heart or lung disease, persons with skin lesions, and the elderly.

To combat GAS, the CDC recommends good hand washing habits, especially after coughing and sneezing and before preparing foods or eating. All wounds should be kept clean and watched for possible signs of infection such as redness, swelling, drainage, and pain at the wound site.

The article on noted that nursing facilities should have strong infection prevention programs to prevent healthcare-associated outbreaks of GAS, with an emphasis on hand hygiene and wound care.

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