sore throat? Fever? swollen lymph nodes? It may be sore throat.

As if we haven’t been dealing with enough RSV, various colds, flu, and COVID-19 lately, this has been a bad sore throat season.

The Minnesota Department of Health does not track Strep on a case-by-case basis, but health professionals say the bacteria keeps urgent care clinics busy.

So, why the increase in bacteria this year? And is there anything Minnesotans can do to avoid this?

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Strep 101 bacteria

When most people think of getting sick, they tend to think of respiratory viruses — the types of insects that generally transmit via respiratory particles that travel through the air.

Strep, which is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus A, It can be transmitted this wayIt has a tendency to spread by touch, said Dr. Jill Foster, a pediatric infectious disease physician and director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota Medical School. You may find yourself with a sore throat if you wipe your eyes or nose after touching a doorknob on which an infected person has spread germs.

In addition to the telltale signs of a sore throat, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, a person with a strep infection will often present with white patches on the tonsils and the back of the throat. Foster said unlike common respiratory viruses, bacteria in general are not associated with nasal congestion.

Strep bacteria can go away on their own. But in general, if patients show symptoms of a bacterial infection and test positive, they are prescribed antibiotics to help their bodies fight it off. That’s because in some cases, streptococcus bacteria can lead to rheumatic fever, which in rare cases can cause long-term heart problems, Foster said.

Worse bacteria this year

As for why this year has been bad for streptococcus, Foster said the Strep A strain doesn’t appear to be any more virulent than years past.

Instead, Foster said, the theory is that this fall, when all the respiratory viruses seemed to be circulating at once, maybe people would be too. colonized with streptococcus bacteria – the term for when bacteria settle in the throat, whether or not they cause symptoms.

“Now, you’ve got a lot of people who’ve gotten sick and they’re all now infected with streptococcus at the same time[and]now they’re running it all over,” Foster said, in schools, nurseries, group care and other settings. .

Usually, children are more likely to get sore throats. Adults tend to develop immunity as they age, and they often have streptococcus bacteria living in their throats at low levels that don’t cause problems. Since children do not have this immunity, they are more likely to develop symptoms.

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Another concern this year is the number of severe streptococcal infections that are getting into patients’ blood. the number of such injuries dropped During the height of the epidemic but it has risen again.

With so many respiratory viruses this year, people are more susceptible to streptococcal infection.

“Because the tissues are so inflamed (from the respiratory virus), the barrier between the mucous membranes and your blood breaks down, and then it spreads into the blood,” Foster said. Foster said hospitals are seeing cases of this in children, who are sick enough to land in intensive care.

prevent strep

There are lessons to be learned for sore throat prevention in the prime COVID years, a time when there was little RSV, little flu, and very little bacteria.

Masks definitely help prevent all of these pathogens, Foster said. But acknowledging that people aren’t likely to wear them forever, she said the way we act when we’re sick is also important.

“The most important thing is there is this culture that if people get sick, they don’t go out and expose others,” she said.

Given the tendency of streptococcus bacteria to be transmitted through touch, hand sanitizer is another helpful tool.

“When you’re out and about and you touch a lot of doorknobs and you know, use elevator buttons and things like that, use hand sanitizer, because it spreads through your hands very efficiently,” she said.

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