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Group B Streptococcus (GBS): What You Need to Know

Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacteria commonly found in the intestines, rectum, and genitals of healthy adults. While it is generally harmless in adults, it can cause serious infections in newborns, pregnant women, and individuals with certain chronic medical conditions.

Key Facts about Group B Streptococcus (GBS):

  • Common Carrier: Approximately 10-30% of adults carry GBS without showing any symptoms.
  • Newborn Risk: GBS is a leading cause of serious infections such as sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis in newborns.
  • Pregnancy Concerns: Pregnant women can pass GBS to their babies during childbirth, which is why screening and preventive measures are crucial.
  • High-Risk Groups: Besides newborns and pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk of severe GBS infections.

Symptoms of GBS Infection:

In Newborns:
  • Early-Onset: Symptoms appear within the first week of life, often within hours of birth. These can include fever, difficulty feeding, irritability, lethargy, and respiratory issues.
  • Late-Onset: Symptoms appear from one week to three months of age. These can include fever, difficulty feeding, irritability, lethargy, and signs of meningitis.

How does someone get group B strep?

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is typically spread through direct contact with body fluids that contain the bacteria. This can happen during childbirth if the mother carries GBS in her vaginal or rectal area, potentially passing the bacteria to the newborn. GBS can also spread through skin contact or, less commonly, through contaminated surfaces.

What happens if you test positive for group B strep?

If you test positive for GBS during pregnancy, your healthcare provider will usually recommend intravenous antibiotics during labour to prevent the bacteria from being passed to the baby. This approach significantly reduces the risk of newborn GBS infection. In other cases, the treatment depends on the specific infection site and patient health, often involving a course of antibiotics.

How harmful is group B strep?

For most adults, GBS is not harmful and often does not cause symptoms. However, in certain populations, GBS can lead to severe health issues. In newborns, it can cause life-threatening infections such as sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis. Pregnant women may experience urinary tract infections, uterine infections, or stillbirth. In adults with underlying health conditions, GBS can lead to bloodstream infections, skin infections, and pneumonia.

Raising Awareness For Group B Streptococcus

July is Group B Strep Awareness Month, a time to educate and inform about the risks, prevention, and treatment of GBS. By understanding and sharing information about GBS, we can help protect vulnerable populations and ensure timely treatment and prevention strategies.

Key Takeaways

  • Screening: Pregnant women should be screened for GBS during the 35th to 37th weeks of pregnancy.
  • Prevention: If positive, antibiotic treatment during labour can prevent newborn infections.
  • Awareness: Recognizing the symptoms and understanding the risks associated with GBS can lead to better outcomes.

Let’s use this month to spread awareness and protect those at risk. Together, we can make a difference in preventing GBS-related complications. Stay informed and proactive about health!

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