School clinics across Dallas-Fort Worth are reporting numerous strep throat cases much earlier than expected this year.
Erin Baker, a physician’s assistant with John Peter Smith Hospital says typically, strep throat is prevalent in winter months.
“I know this morning, one of our clinics, just within the morning patients, 10 patients seen there were six positive strep throats,” Baker said. “So, we are seeing it surge very early.”
Strep throat [streptococcal pharyngitis] is an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Group A strep bacteria can live in a person's nose and throat. The bacteria spread through contact with droplets from an infected person's cough or sneeze.
If you drink from the same glass or eat from the same plate as a person infected with strep throat, you can easily contract the infection. It is also possible to get strep throat from contact with sores from group A strep skin infections.
Strep throat can be treated with antibiotics. Baker says with rapid testing, it can be diagnosed within five minutes.
Typically, Baker says, kids infected with strep throat miss two days of school and are not contagious 24 hours after starting an antibiotic.
There are cases where strep can become more severe, Baker says.
“You can get scarlet fever, rheumatic fever that attacks the heart and sometimes it can cause a skin condition and it can cause problems with kidneys,” Baker said.
There is no vaccine to prevent strep throat. Strep throat is not a reportable illness. That means individual cases are not required to be reported to local and state health departments.
The CDC lists the common symptoms of strep throat as:
- Sore throat, usually starting quickly
- Severe pain when swallowing
- A fever (101° F or above)
- Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
- Tiny red spots (petechiae) on the soft or hard palate—the area at the back of the roof of the mouth
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Body aches
The best way to not contract strep throat is to wash your hands often and avoid sharing eating utensils, like forks or cups, according to the CDC. It is especially important for anyone with a sore throat to wash their hands often and cover coughs and sneezes.