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Strep throat, caused by the group A streptococcus bacteria, is contagious for about two to three weeks in individuals who are not taking antibiotics. However, the contagiousness significantly decreases within 24 to 48 hours after starting antibiotic treatment.

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Here's a breakdown of the key points:

  • Untreated individuals: Individuals with strep throat who don't take antibiotics can spread the infection to others for up to two to three weeks.
  • Treated individuals: Individuals who start taking antibiotics become significantly less contagious within 24 to 48 hours. After this period, the risk of transmitting the infection to others is considerably lower.

Here's why the duration of contagiousness changes with antibiotic treatment:

  • Antibiotics target and eliminate the bacteria causing the infection (group A streptococcus).
  • Reduced bacterial load: As the antibiotics take effect, the number of bacteria in the infected individual's throat and respiratory system rapidly declines.
  • Lowered transmission risk: With a significantly reduced bacterial load, the person becomes less likely to spread the bacteria to others through coughing, sneezing, or close contact.

Even with antibiotic treatment, it's crucial to:

  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing, and avoid sharing personal items like utensils or drinks.
  • Stay home from work or school: This helps prevent spreading the infection to others, especially during the initial contagious period when antibiotic treatment is yet to take full effect.
  • Cover your mouth and nose: When coughing or sneezing, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose and dispose of the tissue properly.
  • Avoid close contact with others: While the infectiousness decreases significantly after starting antibiotics, it's still advisable to minimize close contact with others, especially vulnerable individuals like young children, elderly individuals, or people with weakened immune systems, until you've fully recovered.
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