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Group B Strep Infection in Newborns

Mother holding newborn

Among babies, there are 2 main types of group B strep disease.

  • Early-onset disease — occurs during the first week of life.
  • Late-onset disease — occurs from the first week through three months of life.

Early-onset disease used to be the most common type of disease in babies. Today, because of effective early-onset disease prevention, early and late-onset disease occur at similar low rates.

Group B Strep Can Cause these Illnesses

For early-onset disease, group B strep most commonly causes sepsis (infection of the blood), pneumonia (infection in the lungs), and sometimes meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining around the brain). Similar illnesses are associated with late-onset group B strep disease. Meningitis is more common with late-onset group B strep disease than with early-onset group B strep disease.

For both early and late-onset group B strep disease, and particularly for babies who had meningitis, there may be long-term consequences of the group B strep infection such as deafness and developmental disabilities. Care for sick babies has improved a lot and in the U.S., only 4-6% of babies with group B strep infections die.

On average, about 1,000 babies in the U.S. less than one week old get early-onset group B strep disease each year (see ABCs website for more surveillance information), with rates of group B strep disease higher among preterm infants and among blacks. Group B strep can also cause some miscarriages, stillbirths and preterm deliveries. There are many different factors that lead to stillbirth, pre-term delivery, or miscarriage. Most of the time, the cause is not known.

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