|Description:||This young boy was in the process of being examined by a physician. At this point in the examination, the doctor was taking a throat swab of the boy’s oropharynx in a suspected case of a streptococcal infection, i.e. group A streptococcus (GAS). The physician was also making observations of the boy’s oral cavity and pharynx, checking for erythema, i.e., reddening, and the presence of pus.|
Group A streptococcus is a bacterium often found in the throat and on the skin. People may carry group A streptococci in the throat or on the skin, and have no symptoms of illness. Most GAS infections are relatively mild illnesses such as "strep throat," or impetigo. On rare occasions, these bacteria can cause other severe, and even life-threatening diseases.
Infection with GAS can result in a range of symptoms:
- No illness
- Mild illness (strep throat or a skin infection such as impetigo)
- Severe illness (necrotizing faciitis, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome)
These bacteria are spread through direct contact with mucus from the nose or throat of persons who are infected or through contact with infected wounds or sores on the skin. Ill persons, such as those who have strep throat or skin infections, are most likely to spread the infection. Persons who carry the bacteria, but have no symptoms are much less contagious. Treating an infected person with an antibiotic for 24 hours or longer generally eliminates their ability to spread the bacteria. However, it is important to complete the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed. It is not likely that household items like plates, cups, or toys spread these bacteria.