Infectious Diseases

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Strep Throat

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What is strep throat?

Strep throat is an infection of the throat and tonsils caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes Group A bacteria. The infection is more common in children than in adults.

How is it spread?

The bacteria are found in an infected person's saliva. The infection is spread from person to person through direct contact with secretions from the nose or throat of an infected person. This can happen when the infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. Symptoms start 1 to 3 days after being exposed to the bacteria.

What are the symptoms of strep throat?

A person with Strep throat often has a fever and sore throat. They may also have swollen, tender glands in the neck. If not treated properly, some people can get very serious complications such as rheumatic fever.

How is strep throat diagnosed?

It is difficult to diagnose Strep throat just by looking at the throat. The physician has to take a swab of the throat to see if bacteria are present.

What is the treatment for strep throat?

Strep throat can be treated with antibiotics. Treatment is important to prevent serious complications such as rheumatic fever. When treated with the proper antibiotics, people are no longer contagious after 24 hours. Without treatment, a person may still be contagious for several weeks after the symptoms have stopped.

What precautions can I take?

Watch for signs of Strep throat.

  • If you suspect Strep throat, contact your doctor. Your doctor will start antibiotic treatment as soon as possible if Strep throat is diagnosed. Be sure to finish all of the medication, otherwise the infection may not be completely cured.
  • Hand washing is important to prevent the spread of infection, especially after wiping your nose and before eating or preparing food. Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
  • If your child has Strep throat, he or she should not return to child care or to school until antibiotic treatment has been taken for at least 24 hours.
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