Group A strep live in the nose and throat and can easily spread to other people. When someone who is infected coughs or sneezes, the bacteria travel in small droplets of water called respiratory droplets. You can get sick if you breathe in those droplets or if you touch something that has the droplets on it and then touch your mouth or nose. You could also become ill if you drink from the same glass or eat from the same plate as a sick person. It is possible to get strep throat from touching sores on the skin caused by group A strep (impetigo).
Although rare, group A strep can be spread through food if it is not handled properly (visit CDC's food safety page). Pets or household items, like toys, are not known to spread these bacteria.
Signs and Symptoms
In general, strep throat is a mild infection, but it can be very painful. Symptoms of strep throat usually include:
Other symptoms may include a headache, stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting — especially in children. Cough, runny nose, hoarseness (changes in your voice that makes it sound breathy, raspy, or strained), and conjunctivitis (also called pink eye) are not symptoms of strep throat and suggest that a virus is the cause of the illness. Someone with strep throat may also have a rash known as scarlet fever (also called scarlatina).
It usually takes two to five days for someone exposed to group A strep to become ill.
People can get strep throat more than once, so having the infection does not protect you from getting it again in the future. While there is no vaccine to prevent strep throat, there are things you can do to protect yourself and others.
The best way to keep from getting or spreading strep throat is to wash your hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing and before preparing foods or eating. To practice good hygiene you should: