You may have heard it on the news. It's almost May and yet doctors are still reporting a high number of strep throat cases. The real question is, why? While I haven't heard anything official I have my own opinions about this year's strep "epidemic". The bacteria responsible for most of this year's strep seems to be particularly virulent and contagious. I had my first strep infection in 15 years. While runny nose, coughing and sneezing are usually not caused by strep throat this strain seems to run a whole gamut of atypical symptoms.
My daughter had strep this February and was so congested that I mistook her symptoms for RSV. Keep in mind that I worked as an R.N. in pediatrics through three RSV seasons. Her symptoms were almost identical, the poor girl could hardly breathe. I was biding my time to take her to the E.R. but never suspected strep. To make matters even more confusing through the first week or so she continued eat and drink as if she did not have a sore throat. This is unusual because doctors rely on a very painful sore throat as the number one defining symptom of strep (see Symptoms of Strep Throat).
The only reason we figured out that my daughter had strep was was because my husband caught it and went to the doctor. When he had a positive strep test the rest of the family was put on antibiotics. My daughter immediately improved but the infection had caused fluid in her ears and a massive sinus infection which led to surgery. All in all she was sick for almost two months. That is a very long time to be contagious and potentially spreading strep to others.
Most of the time, symptoms of strep should subside within 24 hours of receiving antibiotics yet my husband and I still had symptoms until the entire course of antibiotics was completely finished. Even four weeks after the onset, we were both extremely fatigued and my husband, who at one time had mono, continued to have swollen, white, tonsils. We believe my daughter caught the illness from her school. It swept through the faculty and student body rapidly and at one point so many teachers had called in sick that they almost had to cancel school.
To wrap things up this is why I believe we are still having so much strep throat this late in the season:
- People are delaying treatment because this strain of the streptococcus bacteria causes symptoms that are more similar to a cold virus than strep throat.
- This strain of bacteria seems to last longer, giving an infected individual more time to spread the illness to others.
- This strain of bacteria may be harder to kill with standard antibiotics or just take longer. Because people may think that the antibiotic isn't working they may stop treatment before it is finished.
- Because this type of strep results in such a long course of illness (3-4 weeks) people are returning to work and school too soon.
Of course, until the scientific community studies the bacterial strain causing this year's strep and comes out with something official this is all just speculation. What do you think? Have you had a similar experience with strep throat this year? Leave your comments below.
And, if you are suffering from strep throat or if you suspect you may have strep throat you might wish to read some of the following articles.
- Is Your Sore Throat Strep?
- What Are Strep Throat Complications I Should Know About?
- How Long is Strep Throat Contagious?
- How Can I Stop Recurring Strep Throat?