Did you know, last month was International Group B Strep Awareness Month? The organization known as Group B Strep International worked hard to spread the word about Group B Strep. They educate people by handing out free informational materials, hosting conferences all over the world, and raising money for awareness. Because awareness about Group B Strep is so important, take the time to learn more about it and help your patients know about the dangers and signs of this bacteria.
What Is Group B Strep?
Group B Strep are bacteria that move through the body naturally. While most of the bacteria is harmless, they can develop into a range of diseases that can affect individuals of all ages including:
- Infection of the bloodstream
- Skin and tissue infections
- Bone and joint infections
- Fever and chills
In most cases, Group B Strep can be cured or treated easily using penicillin or other antibiotics if the person is aware of their condition or that they’re carrying Group B Strep bacteria. If a patient is showing symptoms, they should see their doctor immediately. The doctor will test some of the patient’s body fluids for bacteria. Treatment options can vary based on the type of infection.
Pregnant Women and Group B Strep
Pregnant women also need to be aware of the risks of Group B Strep, as newborns face a greater risk of infection than any other age group. In the United States, Group B Strep bacteria is one of the leading causes of meningitis and bacteria during a newborn’s first week of life. Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes. It’s usually caused by an infection, including Group B Strep bacteria. Symptoms can include a headache, skin irritation, fatigue, fever, constant crying or poor appetite in newborns. While some cases of meningitis can resolve themselves without treatment after a few weeks, other cases can be life-threatening and may require antibiotic treatment. The disease can lead to a miscarriage, stillborn birth, or life-long disabilities for the child. A newborn with meningitis should receive antibiotic treatment within days of showing symptoms, or the disease could be fatal.
Nurses and doctors should encourage women that are 35 to 37 weeks pregnant to get tested for Group B Strep. About 25% of women carry Group B Strep bacteria in their bodies. A pregnant woman with Group B Strep bacteria could put her newborn at risk unless she gets proper antibacterial treatment during labor. If the mother gets the antibacterial treatment, there’s only a 1 in 4,000 chance that her baby will develop a Group B Strep disease, but if she doesn’t get the treatment, those odds go up to 1 in 200. That’s why it’s crucial for pregnant women to get tested before they go into labor, as the antibiotics will only work during labor.
Help your patients understand the risks of Group B Strep and encourage pregnant women to get tested when they are 35 to 37 weeks along in their pregnancy.