Japan currently faces an uptick in Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS), a complication from a flesh-eating bacterial infection that causes fatality within 48 hours.

STSS is caused by Group A Streptococcus, a class of bacteria that typically causes strep and mild illness. The infection begins with symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. Within 24 to 48 hours, the condition can progress to low blood pressure, followed by severe complications such as irregular heart rate, rapid breathing, necrotizing fasciitis which can lead to loss of limbs, organ failure, and toxic shock. Despite treatment, STSS remains highly lethal, with up to 3 out of 10 patients succumbing to the infection.

According to data from Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the country reported 977 cases of STSS by June 2, exceeding last year's total of 941 cases. The infection has already claimed 77 lives between January and March. Last year, 97 deaths were reported due to STSS, marking the second-highest number of fatalities in the past six years.

"At the current rate of infections, the number of cases in Japan could reach 2,500 this year, with a mortality rate of 30%. Most of the deaths happen within 48 hours. As soon as a patient notices swelling in (their) foot in the morning, it can expand to the knee by noon, and they can die within 48 hours," Ken Kikuchi, an infectious disease professor from the Tokyo Women's Medical University, told The Japan Times.

The bacteria responsible for STSS usually enter through open wounds or sores, though the exact source of infection often remains unidentified. While it is rare for a patient with STSS to spread the infection to others, if the condition arises from a milder group A strep infection, these bacteria can be contagious.

There's no vaccine to prevent group A strep infections. Maintaining good hand hygiene and taking prompt treatment for any skin injuries can reduce the risk. STSS is more common in elderly adults. People with diabetes and alcohol use disorder are at increased risk for developing complications.

Taking immediate treatment is crucial to improve recovery and reduce the risk of severe complications or fatalities from STSS. Treatment typically includes administering antibiotics and fluids as needed based on the patient's condition. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove infected tissue and prevent potential complications.