Group B Strep Poses Rare But Serious Danger to Infants

Doctor examining baby with stethoscopeThe first few days of a baby’s life are both precious and anxiety-ridden for new parents. They study and admire their child, doing their best to make sure their baby is well taken care of. One danger they may not be aware of is the rare, but serious, risk of group B strep infection. Although it affects only about 1,000 babies each year, the infection can have serious consequences if left untreated.

What Is Group B Strep?

Group B Streptococcus (often called group B strep or GBS) is a common bacteria that lives in the body. It occurs in both men and women and typically does not cause any symptoms or illness. It is not a sexually transmitted disease. Additionally, group B strep is different from group A streptococcus, which causes what is commonly known as strep throat.

Group B strep is usually harmless to both mom and baby during pregnancy. During a vaginal delivery, however, the bacteria can be passed from the mother to the baby.

Types of Group B Strep and Associated Risks

The following is a brief description of the two types of group B strep:

  • Early-onset – This type of infection occurs during the first week of life, typically within the first 24 to 48 hours. Early-onset group B strep infections can result in lung or blood infections and meningitis.
  • Late-onset – This type of infection occurs after the first week of life. The baby can be infected during birth as in early-onset or through contact with a person with group B strep. Late-onset infection can lead to meningitis or pneumonia.

Typically, a doctor will swab the mother’s vagina and rectum to test for the presence of group B strep during the last few weeks of her pregnancy. If the test is positive, indicating the presence of the bacteria, the mother will be given antibiotics during labor and delivery to ward off infection. Some women may be at a higher risk for their baby to develop a group B strep infection. In addition to a positive lab culture, some causes for an elevated risk are:

  • Preterm labor
  • Over 18 hours from the rupture of membranes to delivery of the baby
  • Fever during labor
  • A previous baby born with a group B strep infection

When Your Baby Develops a Group B Strep Infection

Medical providers will monitor the baby after birth for symptoms of infections. Signs of a group B strep infection in a baby include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Heart problems
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Meningitis

Typically, IV antibiotics are given to the baby to eradicate the infection. While sometimes these situations are unavoidable despite the best medical efforts, there are circumstances where medical negligence has left a child vulnerable to this disease. Practitioners must properly screen, diagnose, and treat patients in a timely manner.

If your baby suffered lasting consequences or died after a group B strep infection, you may be entitled to take legal action. Contact the experienced team at the Tapella and Eberspacher Law Firm for free, no-obligation case review at (217) 394-5885.