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Bacteria: one-celled, microscopic organisms that grow and multiply everywhere on Earth. They can be either useful or harmful to animals... more
Strep throat: an illness that causes fever and sore throat, and is sometimes treated with antibiotics... more
Virus: a super tiny germ that you can only see with a microscope. Viruses need a host in order to reproduce... more
Each of us has suffered with a sore throat at one time or another. You feel icky. Your voice is scratchy. It just plain hurts. Lots of things can cause a sore throat. Viruses and bacteria cause them. So does pollen and cigarette smoke or other irritants in the air we breathe. Most sore throats will heal without treatment. But some can turn dangerous.
Did you ever have a sore throat that hurt a lot? I mean hurt really bad? If so, it may have been an infection called strep throat. The culprits were some particularly bad bacteria called group A Streptococcus. We know that many types of bacteria do very helpful things for the human body. But others are outlaws and bandits. Some Streptococcus are just plain nasty dudes.
The group A strep bacteria can live in your nose and throat. The tonsils are a favorite spot to infect. These nasty bacteria are easy to spread. We spew lots of tiny droplets of fluid into the air when we cough or sneeze. Those millions of wet droplets are filled with strep bacteria.
A simple test can help a doctor know quickly if the strep bacteria are the problem. Just looking at your red, swollen throat and tonsils is not enough. Antibiotics can wipe out the bad guys in a few days. They also help to keep a sick person from spreading the infection to friends and family members.
The best way to keep from getting strep throat is to wash your hands often. Don’t share your spoon and fork or drink cup with others. And always, ALWAYS cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
Additional images from Wikimedia via Kelyn mary (bacteria close up), and Public Domain (doctor).
Dr. Biology. (2014, July 08). Strep Throat. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved February 22, 2020 from https://askabiologist.asu.edu/strep-throat
Dr. Biology. "Strep Throat". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 08 July, 2014. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/strep-throat
Dr. Biology. "Strep Throat". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 08 Jul 2014. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 22 Feb 2020. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/strep-throat