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Feb. 17, 2006

Residents Advised to be on the Lookout for Strep Throat

Sore throat, headache, fever, and difficulty swallowing are all common complaints during the winter. A sore scratchy throat is one of the most common reasons that people visit their doctors.

"Most sore throats are caused by viruses, such as cold or flu viruses, and not bacterial infections," said Kathleen Smith, Oswego County Commissioner of Health Services. "However, it's important to recognize the signs of strep throat so that you can get treated quickly without spreading the illness to others."

Strep throat is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 15, but it can affect people of any age. Symptoms usually include:

  • a very sore throat,
  • fever,
  • swollen or tender glands in the neck,
  • red enlarged tonsils,
  • difficulty swallowing,
  • stomach pain (more common in children), and
  • sometimes, a rash.

Streptococcus bacteria that cause strep throat are highly contagious and can be spread through airborne droplets when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes. People can also pick up these bacteria from doorknobs or other surfaces and transfer them to their noses or mouths. Sharing forks, spoons, cups, or straws with those that are infected is another way that infection can be spread, Smith said.

She recommends frequent and thorough handwashing as the best way to prevent all kinds of infections. "Washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can lessen your chances of getting sick. Covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing helps to prevent the spread of germs," she adds.

Smith said that physicians can usually diagnose strep throat quickly during an office visit. "In most cases your health care provider will prescribe a course of antibiotics and you should start feeling better in two to three days. You should also discuss with your doctor when to return to work, school, and other activities," she said.

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