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DENVER (KDVR) — Kids in Colorado continue to get sick with respiratory illnesses, like RSV, the flu and COVID-19. Now, doctors are warning about a bacterial infection called group A strep.

Two children battling the illness have died in the Denver metro area, and 11 cases have been reported since November. Doctors say group A strep is more rare than other respiratory illnesses, but it could make your little one really sick if they get infected.

“Typically here in Colorado, we would see one or two of these severe type of infections in children a month, but what we have seen recently is an increase in these infections,” state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said.

Strep A cases different from strep throat infections

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said there have been 11 group A strep infections from the Denver metro area since November. These cases are different from strep throat infections.

“What we are talking about today are invasive bacterial infections, so these are infections where the Group A strep bacteria gets from a non-sterile site or sort of a superficial site into a deeper part of the body, so the bloodstream or deep in the lungs or deep in tissue. Those type of infections can be quite severe,” Herlihy said.

The state is still waiting on final coroner reports, but two children battling the illness, who were younger than school age and from the Denver metro area, did pass away. Doctors said with other illnesses like COVID and RSV circulating, it is important to keep an eye on your little one’s health right now.

“A lot of these invasive bacterial infections, including group A strep, can follow a respiratory viral infection or it can happen concurrently,” said Dr. Sam Dominguez, infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “So if you have a mild respiratory viral disease but over the course of 4-5 days you start to suddenly get much sicker, that could be a warning sign that you have a secondary bacterial infection.”

Antibiotic shortage could affect treatment plan

One drug used to treat these infections may be harder to find right now, but doctors said treatment is still accessible.

“There has been a national shortage of amoxicillin, one of the antibiotics that is commonly used to treat strep throat, but there are alternative antibiotics available,” Herlihy said. “So it might take some extra effort right now working with your healthcare provider and your community pharmacy to try to find the antibiotics that you might need.”

Doctors urge parents to keep their kids up to date on COVID, flu and chickenpox vaccines, saying they are a great way to help prevent those illnesses and secondary infections like strep A.