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What is Streptococcus pyogenes?

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Streptococcus pyogenes is the bacteria responsible for strep throat, according to Mayo Clinic. The bacteria are highly contagious and spread via saliva when someone coughs or sneezes, by sharing food or drink, or transferred from hard surfaces to the mucous membranes. Medical personnel also refer to these pathogens as group A streptococcus.

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Group A strep infections also include the mild skin infection impetigo and more serious infections such as pneumonia and toxic shock syndrome. These more serious infections occur when the bacteria find their way into areas of the body where they are not normally found, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors treat group A strep infections using many different types of antibiotics. Patients are no longer contagious 24 hours after treatment begins. If the infection develops into flesh-eating bacteria, the patient may require surgery to remove diseased flesh, according to the CDC. Preventing the spread of the disease requires patients staying at home for the initial period, recommends the New York State Department of Health. When a doctor prescribes the antibiotics; however, patients should complete the entire course, even when they are through the contagious period. Other preventative measures include hand-washing and using a tissue when sneezing or coughing.

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