Residents of Anamosa and elsewhere who know a little bit about bacteria know that they’re present in our bodies, but won’t necessarily do any damage unless certain conditions are present.
This is true for one called Group B strep, which, when inactive, just stays in your bowels, bladder, throats, or similar places without causing problems. But if it becomes active, it could cause a wide range of problems and be especially risky for people already in weak health such as those receiving palliative care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice has received training in different types of bacterial infections, so we’ll be happy to offer advice on what our clients might be experiencing and encourage them to seek medical help.
We’ll also offer assistance if they’re receiving medication or therapy for an infection or an infection that returned, since some of these may stay dormant for years unless something triggers them.
Because Group B strep is considered contagious we will take steps to protect ourselves, but we can also give guidance on how our clients can avoid spreading it to other friends, family, or housemates.
Everyone deals with it differently, but stopping the spread of any kind of infection is generally a good idea. Luckily, because we’re still dealing with COVID, people are more familiar with proper disinfecting procedures and good hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing, cleaning contaminated surfaces, or using safety equipment like gloves or masks.
It also helps to learn a little more about Group B strep and how it can affect different age groups, some more than others.
Group B strep risks
Group B streptococcal infection is one of the more common natural bacteria in our system.
Medical experts are most concerned about Group B strep showing up in expectant mothers. This is because it’s easy for the mother to pass on the infection to their unborn child.
Because their bodies are still developing, an active bacterial infection would cause all types of physical and mental problems. It may cause the mother to deliver prematurely go into labor before she’s supposed to or even cause death. This type of Group B strep in newborns or as meningitis or sepsis.
Some challenges can come for a few years after a child is born. He or she may still be building up the microbes and infections in the body, so is more susceptible to contracting it. The virus may still spread quickly and easily from the mother to the child, such as during breastfeeding or diaper changes.
Or in some cases, the mother may not have her Group B strep active, but the child may contract it anyway or be vulnerable to contracting other infections.
People who are pregnant or fit some of the other risks for Group B strep should contact a favorite medical provider to alert him or her and discuss possible treatment options.
Learning about Group B strep
All ages can be affected by active Group B strep, which usually shows up as a gastrointestinal medical condition.
The Mayo Clinic said active infection can also cause blood infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections. In rare cases, it can cause meningitis in adults, and untreated Group B stress can cause severe infections through the entire body, such as the skin, joints, membranes, and heart valves.
While a lot of attention is given to babies and pregnant moms, seniors aged 65 or older are considered the next highest risk age group.
They are likely to have some or all of the symptoms that adults have, but there’s a possibility of having them more severely and also being more susceptible to contracting it. Their conditions may deteriorate faster and what could be a mild infection in someone younger could lead to hospital time or even death.
A 2005 study showed that of all the people diagnosed with Group B strep, 40 percent were in the age 65 or older group. This age group also sees about 50 percent of Group B strep-related deaths.
Adding to the challenges facing seniors is that they may not realize what they have so they won’t get help for it, further aggravating their bodies.
That’s because some of the symptoms, such as fatigue and gastrointestinal distress, are easy to blame on other conditions, such as the flu or eating something bad.
Some seniors also may have pre-existing conditions which can cause dormant Group B strep to flare up and be damaging, such as a weak immune system, diabetes, cancer, HIV, or liver disease.
There currently isn’t a vaccine for Group B strep, so if you have it, you’ll work with a provider to eliminate it. A common treatment is antibiotics such as penicillin. However, these are known to weaken the body and can cause reactions in some people.
A provider may suggest other options to build up “better” microbes in the body and improve the immune system, such as supplements.
For those who are interested in learning more about this type of infection, July is Group B Strep International Awareness Month. There’s plenty of useful info online. Much of it is geared to babies but there’s also useful info for seniors.