Information leaflet for contacts of patients with invasive group A streptococcal infection

What is group A Streptococcus? 
Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is often found in the throat and on the skin. People may carry it in their throat or on their skin and not be ill. Most GAS infections are fairly mild illnesses such as “strep throat” and impetigo (skin infection). It is very unusual for it to cause other severe infections.

How is it spread? 
GAS spreads between people through sneezing, kissing and skin contact. People who are already sick with GAS are most likely to spread the infection. Healthy people who carry the bacteria but have no symptoms are much less contagious.

What kinds of illnesses are caused by GAS? 
Some people can carry GAS in their throat and have no symptoms – this is called ‘colonisation’. However GAS sometimes causes infections if it enters the body. Most GAS infections are mild illnesses, such as sore throat and impetigo (skin infections). It is very unusual for GAS to cause more severe illness but it can happen, these infections are called ‘invasive GAS disease’ which can be life-threatening .

What should I do if I have been in contact with somebody with invasive GAS disease? 
Because GAS spreads between people through sneezing, kissing and skin contact, close (household) contacts are most at risk of getting GAS. If you have been in close contact with somebody with invasive GAS disease you will be contacted by the public health doctor and given this information leaflet.

Most people who come in contact with GAS remain well and symptom free, or may develop mild illness such as sore throat or skin infection.

1. If you are very well and have no symptoms, while you most likely will remain very well, if you do develop any of the symptoms below, you should contact your GP for advice and tell him/her that you have been in contact recently with a person with invasive GAS disease.

Symptoms include:
• Fever, 
• Muscle aches, pain or swelling, 
• Redness at the site of a cut or wound 
• Dizziness and confusion. 
• A flat red rash over large areas of the body.

2. If you have symptoms of mild GAS infection (i.e. sore throat, fever, and
skin infection) you will be prescribed antibiotic treatment. It is important that you complete the course of antibiotics that is prescribed.

How can GAS infection be prevented? 
Washing your hands - especially after coughing and sneezing - and before preparing foods or eating - reduces the spread of all types of GAS infection. People with "strep throats" should stay at home for 24 hours after taking an antibiotic. Anyone with signs of an infected wound, especially if fever occurs, should seek medical care.

Last reviewed: 28 June 2012