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Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume 12, Issue 4, Pages 232-236
Original Article

Population-Based Surveillance of Invasive Group A Streptococcal Disease in British Columbia: 1996-1998

Gordean L Bjornson,1 David W Scheifele,1 Alison Bell,2 and Arlene King2

1Vaccine Evaluation Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
2Epidemiology Services, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control Society, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Received 16 December 1999; Accepted 12 July 2000

Copyright © 2001 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


OBJECTIVE: To identify and describe all cases of invasive group A streptococcal (GAS) infection occurring in British Columbia during a two-year period.

DESIGN: Active, laboratory-based surveillance with supplemental case description.

SETTING: Forty community and regional hospitals and the provincial laboratory participated, encompassing all health regions.

POPULATION STUDIED: Entire provincial population from April 1, 1996 to March 31, 1998.

MAIN RESULTS: Over the 24-month surveillance period, 182 eligible cases were identified, yielding a mean annual incidence rate of 2.3/100,000. Patients ranged in age from two to 91 years, with a mean of 39.1 years. Soft tissue infections accounted for 89 of 130 cases (68.5%) with a defined clinical syndrome, 20 of which were necrotizing fasciitis. Injection drug use was described in 55 patients, who, as a group, were younger, more likely to have soft tissue infections and less likely to die of infection than nondrug users. Other risk factors for infection included HIV infection (19 patients); skin damage (26 patients, damage independent of injection drug use); chronic illness (27 patients); and immunosuppresion (three patients). Death from GAS infection occurred in 15 of 131 (11.5%) cases with known outcome, yielding an annual case fatality rate of 1.9/million population. Among necrotizing faciitis cases, the mortality rate was 30%.

CONCLUSIONS: Invasive GAS infections are rare in British Columbia and tend to involve persons with chronic illness or prior skin trauma, especially injection drug abuse, which accounted for nearly half of the cases.