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Is Strep Throat Contagious?

Is Strep Throat Contagious?

Strep throat is a throat infection usually caused by group A streptococcal bacteria. Strep throat is often accompanied by fever. Strep throat is one of many causes of inflammation of the pharynx (pharyngitis).Strep throat is a common cause of sore throat. Streptococcus spp. are the most common bacterial species to cause strep throat (15%-30% of pharyngitis in children and about 5 to 10% in adults).

Strep throat is contagious for about 2-3 weeks in individuals that do not take antibiotics. However, individuals that take antibiotics for strep throat usually are no longer contagious about 24 hours after initiating antibiotic therapy. The bacteria that cause strep throat can be transmitted person-to-person by direct contact, especially from mucus droplets from the mouth and indirect contact, such as kissing and sharing utensils or drinking cups.

How to recognize strep throat?

The incubation period for strep throat varies about 1-5 days after exposure to the bacteria. If a person develops a sore throatand a fever, they should consider the possibility they have strep throat, especially if another family member or a coworker has been diagnosed with the disease. The pattern of symptoms of strep throat are:

  • sore throat,
  • fever (usually greater than 102 F or 38.8 C),
  • whitish or yellowish pus areas on the tonsils and throat.

Some persons with strep throat also may develop:

  • headache,
  • muscle pain,
  • nausea and vomiting.

Strep throat is often accompanied by swollen lymph nodes in the neck.Rarely, a person with strep throat can develop a rash.If a person has a runny nose, constant sneezing and coughing, it actually is less likely that they have strep throat.

Strep throat is diagnosed by the medical history, physical examination of the throat, and with a rapid strep test on a swab of the throat. The rapid strep test can be confirmed by a throat culture. However, most physicians will diagnose and begin treatment before a throat culture test is completed.

How is it spread?

Strep throat is easily spread by exposure to droplets from an infected person's sneeze or cough. Kissing can also cause person-to-person spread. Moreover, streptococci can survive for a while on toothbrushes, doorknobs, and other objects. If a person does not have strep throat and touches these contaminated objects, and subsequently touch their mouth or nose, they can become infected.

How to know it’s cured?

Individuals can be cured of strep throat by taking antibiotics. A person taking antibiotics is no longer contagious after about 24 hours. Without taking antibiotics, persons with strep throat are infectious for about three weeks. A person is cured when symptoms are cleared.

If you suspect that you have strep throat, you should contact a primary health-care professional. This is even more urgent if the person has a fever over 102 F or 38.8 C, if the person is dehydrated and has an associated headache, abdominal pain and/or nausea and vomiting. If a person develops symptoms of drooling, difficulty breathingand/or swallowing, they should immediately go to an Emergency Department. Serious strep throat can have very dangerous consequences.