Is strep throat getting worse?

12 News' Nico Santos talks to the Arizona Department of Health Services to find out if strep throat cases are on the rise.

MESA, Ariz. - Strep throat can cause severe sore throat, swollen tonsils and more.

One Phoenix-area doctor told 12 News he has noticed an increase in the severity of symptoms.

"They have been more sudden in their onset,” said Ruben Espinoza, MD, a pediatrician for Banner Children's. “It's not like a sore throat that worsens little by little, and lingers."

Is there actually an increase in the number of cases like we’ve seen reported from other publications?

We can only partially verify that, because streptococcus group A -- which can cause strep throat -- can cause other issues as well.

The Arizona Department of Health Services only tracks the other illnesses that are considered invasive.

According to the CDC, strep group A can cause scarlet fever, which comes with a rash. It is also not tracked by DHS.

The bacteria can also cause kidney complications or rheumatic fever, which may affect your heart and your joints.

In Arizona, there have been 301 cases of strep group A from Jan. 1 to June 30. That's only eight more cases than the same time last year, which saw 293.

Over the last five years, the average is only 160.

So, is strep throat more common? Experts don't know.

But the data show the bacteria responsible for strep throat and other illnesses are getting around more.

Why, exactly, is open for debate.

Espinoza said you must take the entire treatment of antibiotics when you get them for any type of bacterial infection, otherwise "it gets difficult to control the bacteria with regular antibiotic therapy,” he said.

Also, bacteria can change over time.

"There's mutations on the strains that become stronger,” he said, so it may be more aggressive as a contagion.

Plus, the population has grown in the Valley, and there's been a greater access to health care the last few years.

The bottom line is, you can work to prevent getting the bacteria by washing your hands and face, as well as those of your children. Espinoza also said staying hydrated helps keep your body’s defenses strong to block out illness.

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