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Four children under the age of 10 who had streptococcal infections have died since mid-December, in what the BC Centre for Disease Control says is part of a surge in such infections.

A bulletin released by the centre, the Provincial Health Services Authority and BC Children’s Hospital says data from 2023 show a three-fold increase in invasive group A streptococcal infections in people under 20.

It says there were 60 cases last year, three times as many as the year before, when five deaths were reported in children under 10 for the whole year.

In all four recent deaths the centre says the children also had the flu or other viruses alongside the strep infection.

While the bacterial that causes the infection typically causes mild infections, it can become more dangerous when the bacteria invades the lungs, the blood or spreads along muscle tissue.

The centre and BC Children’s Hospital says families need to be aware of symptoms of fever lasting for more than five days for children of any age, a rash, swollen tongue, struggling to breathe or a child who becomes very sick, very quickly.

Three of the deaths were previously reported to have occurred in December and were said to have been linked to the flu.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2024

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