The number of people being treated for strep throat in Fairfax County reached its highest level in three years, according to the health department.
The department said the number of people visiting emergency departments and urgent care centers for the week of March 5-11 was the highest since December 2019.
The increases in strep throat illnesses have been reported since late January, a news release said.
What is strep throat?
Strep throat involves an infection in the throat and tonsils that is caused by bacteria called group A Streptococcus.
How do you get strep throat?
The infection is highly contagious. It spreads through coughs and sneezes. You can get it through direct contact by sharing silverware or kissing.
How contagious is it?
It takes two to five days for someone exposed to strep to become ill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people are contagious even if they do not seem sick, but those who are sick are more contagious.
The Fairfax Health District said that when people are in close settings, such as schools and childcare facilities, the risk increases.
It is more common in kids than adults, and most common in children between the ages of 5 and 15. Adults more at risk have children or are in contact with children, the CDC said.
What are the symptoms of strep throat?
Common symptoms include the following:
- Sore throat that may begin suddenly and may appear red
- Pain when swallowing
- Red and swollen tonsils
- White patches or streaks on the tonsils
- Tiny, red spots on the roof of the mouth (petechiae)
- Swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck
A cough, running nose, and hoarseness would likely be a virus, not strep throat.
How is strep throat diagnosed and treated?
Strep throat can be diagnosed through a rapid test that involves a throat swab. If the test is positive, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics. If the test is negative and the doctor still thinks it’s strep, a throat culture swab is taken.
What should you do if you have it?
The health department said if people have strep throat, it’s important to stay home from school, childcare, or work “until they no longer have a fever and have taken antibiotics for at least 12 hours. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor, even if you (or your child) feel better before you are done taking them.”
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