What is Group B Strep?

Known as Streptococcus agalocitae, Group B strep (GBS) is a bacterium that generally causes infections in pregnant women and their infants.  It can also cause infections in nonpregnant adults.  GBS is found in the intestinal, vaginal and rectal areas of 15 to 45 percent of healthy women.  GBS is spread from the mother to her infant before or during delivery, and is the most common cause of sepsis (blood infection) and meningitis (an infection of the fluid and lining around the brain) in newborns.  While GBS is easily treated, it can lead to death if undetected or untreated.

Newborns get GBS by direct contact with the bacteria while in the uterus or during delivery.  Approximately 50 percent of pregnant mothers who test positive for GBS will pass it on to their infants.  However, only one in every 100-200 babies born to a mother with GBS will get an infection.  If the infant does get an infection during its first week of life, the infection is termed early onset disease.  If the infant gets the infection one week to three months of life, the condition is termed late-onset disease.  Approximately 1,200 babies in the United States get early onset disease every year.  The same number of infants also get late-onset disease.

Infants with early onset disease usually experience symptoms within the first 24 hours of life.  Infants with late-onset disease exhibit symptoms after one week.  Babies with GBS usually have a fever and have difficulties breathing.  Their skin may be bluish-colored, and they may be limp or stiff.  In addition, infants with GBS may have seizures, have difficulty feeding, and may have heart rate and blood pressure abnormalities.

While GBS is more common among African-Americans, there are certain risk factors that may increase a mother’s chance of transmitting the disease to her newborn.  Such factors include a labor or membrane rupture before 37 weeks gestation; a membrane rupture more than 18 hours before delivery; a urinary tract infection during pregnancy, as well as having a previous child with GBS.

How is Group B Strep Treated and Prevented?

To prevent transmission of GBS to her infant, pregnant women are given antibiotics, usually penicillin or ampicillin, intravenously during labor.  Because GBS grows quickly, administering antibiotics before labor is generally ineffective.  Women who are unsure of the GBS status, women who have had a membrane rupture for 18 hours or more, and women who go into labor with less than 37 weeks of gestation also receive antibiotics to prevent GBS.  If a mother receives antibiotics during labor, her infant has a one in 4,000 chance of getting GBS, which is best prevented by routine screening during pregnancy.

How Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC Can Help If Your Child Was Diagnosed with Group B Strep

If your child was diagnosed with GBS, our firm may be able to help.  GBS is easily prevented and treated and may occur if health care professionals fail to diagnose or fail to properly treat the infection, which can lead to serious complications.  We will examine your child’s medical records to determine if his or her GBS could have been prevented.  We will recover compensation from those responsible for your child’s injury.  Contact us for a free consultation.

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