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Filipinos now face a new health threat as the rare and fatal streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) has been detected in the Philippines. 

In an interview with Super Radyo DZBB on June 27, infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante confirmed the presence of STSS cases in the country.

Photos Courtesy of Medical News Today/Kingwood ER/Tua Saúde.

Elaborating on the infection's progression, the bacteria could enter through a wound and spread into the bloodstream, leading to tissue necrosis, or the peeling of the layers of tissue.

“Flesh-eating kasi ‘yung sugat na 'yan, ang bilis niyang lumalaki na nangingitim so parang kinakain na rin siya. Parang ‘yung area kung saan ‘yung sugat, lumalaki, lumalago tapos namumula, nangingitim,” he said, describing the aggressive nature of the infection.

STSS is a severe infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes Group A, the same bacteria responsible for pharyngitis or inflammation of the pharynx. It can invade deeper tissues and the bloodstream, which can cause severe symptoms and high mortality. 

Early symptoms like fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting can escalate within 48 hours, progressing to more severe conditions like low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and organ failure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30% of the infected individuals die, a sign of the disease’s high fatality rate.

The infection's rapid progression and severe complications, such as needing surgery to remove infected tissue or limbs, make it a critical concern for vulnerable populations.

Vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems, including those with diabetes and chronic renal failure, are particularly at risk. 

The Department of Health (DOH) acknowledged the presence of STSS but emphasized focusing on more widespread diseases. 

“We invite more attention to risk communication efforts against the WILD diseases – Water-borne illnesses, Influenza-like illnesses, leptospirosis, and dengue,” DOH Assistant Secretary Albert Domingo stated.

“By burden of disease and by effect on quality of life, they are more worthy of public attention,” he added.

Travel restrictions are not necessary, according to Solante, despite a 1,019 STSS cases in Japan that left 77 people dead. 

Infectious disease expert Hitoshi Honda, in an interview with Japan Times, commented on the situation in Japan, saying, “It’s not the kind of infectious disease that would require travel restrictions — at all.”

Solante stressed the importance of public awareness regarding STSS, noting that early recognition and prompt treatment are crucial in preventing severe complications and fatalities. 

He advised the public to wear face masks and practice thorough wound care to prevent infection. Immediate medical attention is crucial for those exhibiting symptoms to avoid severe outcomes.