Group B Strep Symptoms

Group B streptococcus (strep), a common bacterium usually found in the lower genital tract, is usually harmless to adults. However, it can cause B strep disease in newborns. Adults suffering from chronic medical conditions including diabetes and liver disease can also contract dangerous infections caused by Group B strep. Group B strep symptoms include low energy, low or high body temperature and raised respiratory rate. Group B strep in newborns may lead to sepsis, meningitis or pneumonia.

Symptoms of Group B Strep Infection

1. Group B Strep Symptoms in Newborns

Group B strep can cause severe infection in newborns including bloodstream infection (sepsis) or pneumonia. The bacteria may also infect the tissues lining the brain and cause meningitis, leading to permanent brain damage in survivors. The symptoms in newborns include poor feeding, breathing problems, low blood pressure and jaundice. Skin and membranes of jaundiced babies look yellowish. A significant percentage of Group B strep infected newborns die with newborns having low birth weight.

2. Group B Strep Symptoms in Babies

Babies who get infected with Group B strep after one week of age are said to have late-onset disease. Most late-onset infections occur in about three week old babies, but can also occur as late as three months after birth. Late-onset infection is less severe than early-onset. It may cause pneumonia, sepsis, seizures, meningitis and infected bones. Infected infants have fever, become listless or stop feeding well. If promptly treated, few cases of late-onset Group B strep infection turn fatal.

3. Group B Strep Symptoms in Pregnant Women

The symptoms in pregnant women include abdominal pain, fever, and/or low blood pressure. The infection can cause stillbirth, pre-term labor or miscarriage. Group B strep infection can occur before labor or up to 48 hours after delivery.

4. Group B Strep Symptoms in Non-pregnant Adults

Group B strep causes pneumonia, osteomyelitis abscesses or blood stream infection. Bloodstream infections can lead to low blood pressure, infection of the heart valves, fever and aches. Abscesses are puss collections that may occur in the abdomen while pneumonia leads to fever with a cough and shortness of breath.

When to See a Doctor

Babies and newborns should be examined by a medical provider if they have trouble breathing, become listless or have fever. Pregnant women should seek medical attention if they have fever or abdominal pain.

How Do I Know If I Get Group B Strep?

Group B strep infection diagnosis is done by growing bacteria from the fluid samples. The lab analysis results are ready in about three days. For pregnant women, a Group B strep screening is recommended between weeks 35 and 37. Swab samples are collected from the vagina and rectum and sent to the lab for testing. A positive test result indicates that you are a Group B strep carrier hence it is potential for your newborn to get infected. It does not mean that you are ill or your baby will definitely be infected, but means that you need to take the right measures to protect your baby. If your doctor suspects that your newborn baby has Group B strep disease, a blood or spinal fluid sample will be collected for lab evaluation.

Treatments for Group B Strep Infection

Treatments for Infants

Infants that test positive for group B strep are given intravenous antibiotics to fight the bacteria. Depending on your baby’s condition, oxygen, intravenous fluids or other medication may be given to relieve group B strep symptoms.

Treatments for Adults

Group B strep infections in adults are usually treated using antibiotics. The choice of antibiotics is based on location, extent of the infection and the situation of the infected individual. Pregnant women infected with group B strep are given oral antibiotics, normally cephalexin or penicillin which are safe for pregnant women.

Prevention of Group B in Pregnancy

Up to 10% of babies infected with Group B strep die while some survivors end up with long term medical problems. However, group B strep infection is preventable. Pregnant women should be tested for Group B strep so that they can be treated early.

1. Routine Screening

Routine screening is the best way to prevent group B strep infection during pregnancy. Since the 1990s when preventive measures were instituted, routine testing has resulted in a decrease in early onset infections in newborns by about 80%. Routine screening for group B strep is strongly recommended for pregnant women.

2. Antibiotic Administration

Antibiotics are administered during labor to pregnant women carrying group B strep and those with high risk factors to prevent transmission of group B strep to the newborn. An intravenous antibiotic, usually penicillin, is administered. Clindamycin is given to women allergic to penicillin. Other situations call for antibiotic treatment during labor include women who have a urinary tract infection, develop a fever during labor or go into labor before 37 weeks and have not been tested for group B strep.

It is important to remind your health care team during labor if you tested positive for group B strep so that they can provide you with the best care. Group B strep does not affect your ability to breastfeed or the time you and your baby will stay in hospital.

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