Officials at Gundersen Health System are reporting a rise in strep throat infections, as positive cases are double what they were at this time last year. That amounts to a 40% positivity rate.

Strep throat typically affects children, especially those who attend school or day care, according to Gundersen Infection Preventionist Megan Meller. Even teenagers are susceptible.

“It’s really pretty common, but with that said, it’s really important to get it treated,” Meller said.

Strep throat is contagious, and it’s most often spread through respiratory droplets – think sneezing – when an infected person is in close contact with others. According to Jennifer Zweifel, a pediatrician at Gundersen, the sudden onset of a sore throat, fever, headache, and abdominal pain are signs you may have an infection. Some people may also experience nausea and vomiting.

If a strep test comes back positive, antibiotics are the best treatment option.

“Fever and sore throat are typically much improved within one to three days of treatment,” Zweifel said. “Without treatment, symptoms may self-resolve but may last up to one week.”

It’s generally recommended that children over the age of two take an antibiotic to reduce the risk of complications. Strep throat, Meller said, is caused by the same bacteria that’s responsible for inflammatory conditions like rheumatic fever or serious infections like toxic shock.

“Treatment not only reduces how long someone is sick for, but it also reduces the ability to transmit the bacteria to others,” Meller said, adding that after 12 hours of antibiotic treatments and if the fever has subsided, an infected person is likely no longer contagious.

But to reduces the chances of becoming sick, Zweifel suggests frequent hand washing, avoiding sharing eating utensils and hand towels, covering your cough and sneeze, and discarding your toothbrush if you test positive.

You can visit your primary care doctor at any of Gundersen’s clinics in the tri-state area.