The symptoms of strep throat are usually mild and treatable ones, like a sore throat, spots on the throat, and a fever. But occasionally, a case can have more severe consequences, as Shelby Smith would know.
The Tennessee resident ended up in septic shock at the hospital, where the doctors induced a coma as her throat closed up. She woke up a week later lacking circulation in the majority of her fingers, a side effect of the medication administered to revive her failing organs. One of them had to be cut off, along with two toes.
Dr. Jeffry King told Fox 6 that this form of strep throat was "one of the most life-threatening illnesses that we see as far as a bacterial infection." However, he said, there are only several hundred cases like this every year.
Kevin Breen was another of these unlucky patients. He went to the ER over stomach pain, and after his stomach hardened and grew, the doctors performed surgery, finding three mysterious liters of pus. He also went into septic shock and had a rash on his chest, a potential sign of strep throat, and tested positive for the bacteria that causes the illness. He's also lost multiple toes.
The difference between these cases and typical strep throat is that Smith's and Breen's infections found their way into their hosts' bloodstreams. Typically, it stays in the throat.
"As (strep) travels through the body, it can set up housekeeping, if you will, in various locations in the body and cause damage at those locations," which leads to sepsis, Dr. William Schaffner told Fox 4.