Study objective: To alert practicing emergency physicians to an important and possibly increasing relationship between life-threatening group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal (GABHS) infections and children recovering from varicella.
Design: A case series of six patients managed from January through March 1993.
Setting: A university-affiliated pediatric specialty emergency department.
Type of participants: Six previously healthy immunocompetent children between 1 and 5 years of age seen in our ED over a nine-week period.
Results: Six children had onset of varicella two days to two weeks before developing a serious life-threatening GABHS infection. Children presented with clinical symptoms of invasive GABHS infection with bacteremia (one patient); streptococcal toxic shock syndrome with negative blood culture (two), pneumonia with pleural effusion and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (one), pneumonia with pleural effusion (one), and pyomyositis of the thigh (one). Four of six patients required intensive care admissions and aggressive support of vital signs. All six survived.
Conclusion: Emergency physicians should be aware of the association between varicella and serious GABHS infections and be prepared to recognize and aggressively manage serious complications should they occur.