The Rise of Flesh-eating Bacteria in Japan Causing Death within 2 days


Japan has experienced a concerning rise in cases of a rare but lethal bacterial infection affecting human tissue, following the relaxed COVID-19 restrictions in the country.

Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) by flesh-eating bacteria, a deadly illness, can cause death within 2 days. Ken Kikuchi, a professor specializing in infectious disease at Tokyo Women’s Medical University, said, “Most of the deaths happen within 48 hours”. Recent data from Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Disease shows nearly 1000 cases this year, exceeding last year’s figures. In the initial of this year, Tokyo recorded 145 cases by itself.

Experts warn that Japan may see the number of cases reach 2,500 by the end of this year. The mortality rate of this disease is alarming at 30% which means 3 individuals out of 10 affected individuals have the risk of dying even with treatment said US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases issued a risk of evaluation stating that the incidence of STSS cases “has increased since July 2023, especially among those under 50 years of age”.

It is triggered by the Group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria. It is marked by sudden shock and failure of multiple organs, posing a life-threatening risk if not treated properly. About the symptoms, the affected individuals suffer from fever, organ failure, swelling, low blood pressure, limb pain, and sore throat in children.

In late 2022, several European countries reported a rise in cases of invasive group A streptococcus (iGAS) disease to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO observed that this increase in cases coincided with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. These bacteria can enter your skin through wounds like cuts, burns or scrapes. So, experts urge treating open wounds to prevent STSS infection. To prevent STSS infection, experts emphasize the critical importance of maintaining good personal hygiene, especially with increasing global travel. Any sudden onset of fever or pain should be treated seriously. Try to avoid injuries like cuts, burns, and insect bites. In case of any wounds it is essential to clean thoroughly and also follow pandemic protocols such as washing hands using soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, social distancing is crucial for the prevention of STSS. Kikuchi said, “We can boost immunity if we are constantly exposed to bacteria. But that mechanism was absent during the coronavirus pandemic”.

Mental Health Concerns

The recent surge of Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS) cases in Japan, exacerbated by the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, has not only posed a severe public health challenge but has also stirred significant mental health concerns among the population.

With STSS causing rapid tissue destruction and potentially fatal outcomes within 48 hours, fear and anxiety have escalated sharply. The high mortality rate of 30% has instilled a pervasive fear of illness and death, amplifying stress levels across communities already grappling with the lingering psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individuals are experiencing heightened worries about contracting the infection and may exhibit symptoms akin to anxiety disorders, exacerbated by the sudden and lethal nature of the disease. This situation has prompted urgent calls for mental health support, emphasizing the need for accessible counselling and interventions to help individuals cope with their fears and anxieties.

Additionally, efforts to promote community resilience and support networks are crucial in alleviating the psychological toll of the STSS outbreak, fostering an environment where individuals can seek help, share concerns, and receive the necessary support to navigate this challenging period effectively.

References +
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  • Desk, L. (2024, June 16). Rare ‘flesh-eating bacteria’ that can kill in 2 days spreads in Japan: Will it affect the rest of the world? The Indian Express.
  • Online, E. (2024, June 16). Deadly “flesh-eating bacteria” outbreak sweeps Japan, death toll mounts; Here’s all you need to know. The Economic Times.
  • Online, F. (2024, June 16). ‘Death within 48 hours’ – Japan reports sharp spike in flesh-eating bacteria infection, Hong Kong issues advisory. Financial Express.
  • Ndtv, & Ndtv. (2024, June 17). Rare “Flesh-Eating Bacteria” That Can Kill In 2 Days Spreading In Japan. NDTV.,of%20the%20disease%20since%201999
  • TOI World Desk. (2024, June 15). Rare bacteria that can kill in 48 hours spreading in Japan: All you need to know about STSS. The Times of India.
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