International Group B Streptococcus (GBS) Throat Awareness Month
Strep stands for streptococci, which describes a class of strain of bacteria. There are several types, but two of them cause most of the strep infections in people: group A and group B. Streptococci are typically found in pairs or in chains. These bacteria are gram-positive, which means that they have an outer wall which can react with certain kinds of dyes. They are also facultative anaerobic, which means that they can grow without oxygen, if necessary. Streptococci are divided into different groups based on the proteins which are found on the bacteria’s surface (Cloe: 2017).
Group A Streptococci
Group A streptococci infections cause many different kinds of infections. These bacteria are responsible for causing:
- Strep throat, many different ear infections, bacterial pneumonia, meningitis, scarlet fever and cellulitis, the Family Practice Notebook states.
- These bacteria can also cause toxic shock syndrome and sinus infections. The most common type of group A streptococci is Streptococcus pyogenes.
Group B Streptococci
Group B streptococci cause far fewer diseases than group A. Group B Streptococci includes the bacterium Streptococcus agalactiae. This organism normally lives in the vagina and can cause pneumonia and meningitis in newborns. A screening test during pregnancy will show a woman if she has it. If she does, intravenous (IV) antibiotics during labour can save her baby’s life. Adults can also get group B strep infections, especially if they are 65 years or older, or already have health problems.
Strep B can cause urinary tract infections, blood infections, skin infections and pneumonia in adults.
Antibiotics are used to treat strep infections (https://www.niaidnih.gov/conditions/group/srteptoccal-infection).
Strep throat basics
Strep throat is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus). Common signs and symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Trouble swallowing
- White dots or redness in your throat
If a child develops strep throat, they may also experience vomiting, stomach ache and headache. Strep throat is highly contagious and can lead to serious complications. Learn how to lower your chances of getting strep throat, how to treat it and how to protect people around you.
Prevention is always better than cure!
Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of common infections, including strep throat. It is especially helpful when one is spending time in places where one is more likely to come into contact with harmful germs, such as hospitals, nursing homes, childcare centres, and schools. Wash your hands regularly throughout the day, especially:
- Before you prepare or eat food
- Before you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Before and after you spend time with someone who is ill
- After you use the bathroom or change a diaper
- After you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose
Make handwashing count
Running hands under water for a few seconds isn’t enough to kill germs. Make it count! Wet your hands with clean water and lather up with soap. Scrub your hands on the front and back, between the fingers, and under the fingernails for at least 20 seconds (that’s about as long as it takes to sing the “happy birthday” song twice) then rinse well. Dry your hands with a clean towel or hand dryer.
Keep hand sanitiser handy
Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to keep them clean. At times when there is no soap and water, use hand sanitiser instead. It’s not quite as effective, but if it is made up of at least 60% alcohol, it can kill a lot of germs.
A word of caution
The symptoms of strep throat sometimes go away on their own, but if not treated properly, it can lead to other serious illnesses, including rheumatic fever. If a child has strep throat, they’re more likely to develop this potentially life-threatening complication. Antibiotics are the only way to protect against it.
If you think you or someone in your family has strep throat, make an appointment to see a doctor immediately.
Your doctor can help you treat the infection and prevent its spread to others.