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Strep throat

This information is provided by the North Dakota Department of Health. It is not a substitute for advice from your doctor.

What is "strep" throat?

"Strep" throat is an infection caused by Group A streptococci bacteria that may also cause skin infections, ear infections, scarlet fever, pneumonia, Toxic Shock Syndrome and other diseases.

Who gets "strep" throat?

Anyone can get a "strep" throat infection.

How is strep throat spread?

Strep throat is spread by direct or intimate contact with infected persons or carriers. It is rarely spread by indirect contact of hands or objects. Other strep bacteria may cause foodborne tonsillitis.

What are the symptoms of strep throat?

Symptoms include a sore throat, fever, pus on tonsils and throat, and tender lymph nodes. Sometimes symptoms are minimal.

How soon after exposure do symptoms appear?

Symptoms usually occur 1-3 days after exposure.

How long is a person able to spread strep throat?

When treated with penicillin, strep throat is usually not spread after 24-48 hours. Untreated cases may be spread to others for weeks to months.

Does past infection make a person immune?

No, partly because of the many different strains of the bacteria.

What complications can happen from strep throat?

Complications include, kidney disease and rheumatic fever that could lead to heart complications. A neurological syndrome is a rare complication. Proper treatment can reduce the possibility of complications.

What is the treatment for strep throat?

Several forms of penicillin. Medicine should be taken as long as ordered, usually for 10 days.  

What can be done to control the spread of strep throat?

Sore throats should be cultured for strep infection. Start antibiotic therapy early in the disease and take all medications as ordered. Avoid exposure to others for 24-48 hours after treatment is started. Other family members may need to be tested if infections occur again. Persons with previous cases of rheumatic fever may be treated with long-term antibiotics.  Practice good personal hygiene such as hand washing. Cases resulting from contaminated food can be prevented by handling foods properly and washing hands and utensils used to prepare the food.