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Strep Throat and Group A Streptococcal Disease

What is strep throat?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by Group A Streptococcus leading to a sore throat and fever. Most sore throats are caused by a virus, however, they are not strep throat. Sometimes a strep test is necessary to tell if the sore throat is caused by strep bacteria so that you can be treated appropriately. About 3 out of every 10 children with a sore throat have strep throat. It is common in school-age children.


Group A Streptococcus bacteria are very contagious. Generally, people spread the bacteria to others through respiratory droplets and/or direct contact.

Strep throat can spread to others until 12-24 hours after you begin taking antibiotics. During this time, avoid contact with other people at work, school, or home, especially infants and children. Do not sneeze or cough on others, and wash your hands often.

What are the symptoms?

Typical symptoms take two to five days for someone exposed to group A strep to become ill with strep throat. It is hard to tell the difference between strep throat and a sore throat caused by a virus.


Look for these symptoms:

  • Severe throat pain and/or pain with swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Redness, or white patches in the back of the throat

Features that are suggestive of a viral cause include cough, runny nose, hoarseness, pink eye. 

How is strep throat treated?

Treatment can ease symptoms and may prevent future problems:

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them early just because you feel better.
  • Manage fever and pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Gargle with warm salt water at least once each hour to help reduce swelling.
  • Try an over-the-counter anesthetic throat spray or throat lozenge, which may relieve throat pain.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids may soothe an irritated throat. Warm liquids, i.e. tea or soup may help too.
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Do not smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke

Make sure to contact your doctor and notify them of your health condition

Call 9-1-1 anytime if you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a fever with a stiff neck or severe headache
  • Your sore throat gets severe on one side
  • If you have trouble breathing
  • You are severely dehydrated and cannot swallow liquids
You can learn more about strep throat by visiting the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Website