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Strep cases spiking in Arkansas

According to the World Health Organization, strep A is on the rise in multiple countries. Arkansas Children's is seeing an uptick in strep and flu as RSV decreases.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The holiday season is that time of year when a lot of different sicknesses are going around. According to the World Health Organization, strep A is on the rise in multiple countries.

The Arkansas Children's system confirmed that the Natural State is seeing this rise too.

"This has been a really busy viral respiratory season," Dr. Rick Barr with the Arkansas Children's system said.

Barr said as respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV) decrease, he's seeing an increase in flu and strep A, which is the most common form of streptococcal pharyngitis. 

"It can cause really, really serious infections," Barr said. "We are seeing an increase in those invasive bloodstream infections."

Dr. Barr recommended getting a flu shot to stay better protected.

"We really promote getting the flu shot," Barr said. "It prevents the flu, but it also prevents getting that invasive bacterial infection after you have the flu."

Barr also said that it's not too late in the flu season to get it and that the shot typically has more of an immediate response than the COVID vaccine. Although, he recommends getting both.

"It takes about two weeks for you to develop full immunity to a COVID vaccine," Barr said. "That's just the nature of the way the vaccine is prepared, how it interacts with the immune system."

Over at UAMS, Dr. Rawle Seupaul said they're not seeing an increase in strep, but there is a mix of different respiratory viral illnesses. 

"We are seeing flu, type A and type B," Seupaul said. "We're also seeing COVID still, as well as other viral pathogens."

Seupaul said children who already have the flu or another virus tend to be at higher risk for a strep infection. 

"That viral infection while it activates your immune system, it also creates some weaknesses where something like strep could cause another infection," Seupaul said. "So, scarlet fever, other types of skin infections, that strep A causes."

Seupaul encourages everyone to take extra care of themselves heading into the holidays and the new year so everyone stays in good health.

"Wearing a mask, washing your hands, covering your cough, covering your sneezes, and minimizing the risk you put yourself in," Seupaul said.

The government is also issuing more free at-home COVID tests for those who want to be extra cautious.

According to the White House, those interested in getting the free tests can place an order at COVIDTests.gov. Orders will start shipping next week.

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