The Group B strep (GBS) infection may reside in a person’s body without causing any damage, or it could develop into a serious infection. Some estimates say that one-quarter of pregnant women have GBS and it sometimes gets passed on to their babies. However, in many instances, it causes no harm to the pregnant woman, and the chance of babies developing this infection is as low as one in two thousand. GBS may have consequences that are more serious for older adults and anyone who suffers from a weak immune system, for example, diabetics.
GBS infections might cause skin ulcers to appear, but the chances that this will happen to a healthy adult are very low. When someone is in good health, their immune system protects them against the spread of infection. Diabetics and older people who suffer from poor blood circulation lack strong immune systems, so they face a little higher risk of ulcers. In addition to skin ulcers, the infection might cause pressure sores to appear. Bed-ridden patients are more likely to suffer from such sores because they must remain stationary for long periods with their bodies pressed against the mattress.
Now and again, a GBS infection gets into the bloodstream. The patient starts to suffer from headaches and becomes feverish. They also usually feel that their neck has become all stiff. These are signs of the dreaded and potentially fatal disease of meningitis. Even though most sufferers survive, they often end up with permanent disabilities, so it is essential to get medical attention immediately. Fortunately, the chances of GBS infecting the bloodstream are as low as 33,000 (2015 statistics from the ).
The medical profession accepts that GBS poses a risk to the fetus during pregnancy. The infection is responsible for a tiny proportion of miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature births. The point to stress is that the chances of the harm to the baby in the womb or during birth remain very low. The risks associated with smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol regularly during pregnancy is much higher. If doctors discover the GBS during tests, they might decide to administer antibiotics.
While most concern over the GBS infection understandably revolves around the baby, the pregnant woman also faces a slight risk of developing health complications. If the risk to the baby happens to be very small, the risk to the mother's health is even smaller, but on rare occasions, health issues develop. A very small proportion of pregnant women develop urinary tract or womb infections because of GBS. In the rarest, extreme scenarios, the infection enters the blood, and they might get sepsis.
A small number of newborns display various GBS symptoms in their first day of life. Doctors call this condition early-onset GBS. It may take several different forms. Sometimes the baby has an unusually high or low temperature. The doctor might also monitor abnormally fast or slow heartbeat. Additional symptoms include a baby who shows a lack of responsiveness to various stimuli, a reluctance to feed and a marked irritability. In approximately nine out of ten cases, the babies survive the infection, but in about one out of five cases, they might have serious health problems.
A look at the small percentage of babies who develop GBS reveals that the vast majority develop it close to birth. However, for reasons not properly understood by doctors, some babies develop this illness at a slightly later stage. In these cases, doctors find no connection between the GBS and any infection caught at birth. The baby may become sick a week after birth, or even a month afterward, but GBS almost never appears three or more months after birth. Typical symptoms include a very high temperature, lack of interest in feeding and nausea.
Even though it is rare to find GBS in newborns, hospital staff still feel the need for a range of precautions. They are especially concerned when a mother who previously gave birth to a baby with GBS goes into labor. The 's Royal College of Obstetricians, and Gynecologists (RCOG) recommend that in these circumstances the doctors closely monitor the baby for the first half day of his or her life. Alternatively, the hospital might decide to administer antibiotics right after birth until medical tests reveal the baby is clean of GBS.
News media periodically write about strains of viruses resistant to antibiotics, but thankfully GBS is one of those illnesses that continue to respond well to antibiotic treatments. Patients usually need to take a full course of penicillin to make sure they get rid of all the bacteria. Doctors give babies antibiotics through an intravenous device while adults normally take them orally. If doctors assess that there is a high risk of a pregnant woman communicating GBS to her newborn baby, they might also decide to give her antibiotics intravenously when she goes into labor.
The rarity of serious adult health damage from GBS infections cannot be overstressed. The likelihood that anyone will ever require surgery due to a GBS infection is extremely remote. These situations occasionally occur. In these rarest scenarios, the infection damages body tissue. The patient needs to undergo surgery to drain off infected body areas and to cut out tissue damaged by GBS.
If the GBS infection reaches a point where the patient needs to receive antibiotics intravenously, expect that the only practical initial treatment options require hospitalization. Once the doctor is satisfied that the patient's condition has stabilized, they might allow them to continue to receive the intravenous antibiotics at home.
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