Strep throat is the worst. But this medical breakthrough may prevent it altogether.

Simply put, strep throat is miserable.

Streptococcal pharyngitis (the dreaded condition's full name) is a bacterial infection that causes a painful sore throat and a fever. And for the unlucky people who get it, symptoms can also include headaches, belly pain, and a rash.


At least there's Netflix. Photo by iStock.

Strep throat and infections like it are much more than a schoolyard nuisance.

Strep is just one of the group A streptococcal (GAS) infections. That's science for the dream team of gnarly illnesses that also includes pneumonia and flesh-eating infections.

Each year, strep throat affects 7.3 million people in the U.S. and streptococcal diseases result in 1,200 to 1,600 deaths.

But we're one step closer to eliminating strep throat completely, thanks to a new vaccine.

StreptAnova, a vaccine developed by Memphis-based physicians James Dale and Gene Stollerman, was designed to prevent GAS infections, particularly in children and teens, who are most susceptible to the illnesses.

So long, strep throat. Photo by iStock.

The vaccine is especially important for people in developing countries. In an interview with Upworthy, Dale explained that strep throat infections can lead to rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. Those diseases cause 233,000 deaths each year.

"A vaccine designed to prevent rheumatic fever and invasive infections could have a major impact on the health of millions worldwide," he said.

Before the vaccine is made available to the public, it must be tested, tested again, and tested some more.

Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves a vaccine, it must undergo a battery of trials, typically conducted in three phases. Phase 1 trials are conducted with a very small group of closely monitored individuals.

For StreptAnova, the Phase 1 trial is taking place at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, 45 healthy adults will receive three injections of StreptAnova over six months. Physicians will follow up a year later to assess the individuals and their response to the drug.

Science-ing the hell out of some samples. Photo by iStock.

Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials are similar but larger-scale, enrolling a few hundred and a few thousand people, respectively. The larger trials provide proof of effectiveness.

Following the tests, there's a lot of paperwork, applications, licenses, and procedures. If the vaccine passes muster, it's made available to the general public.

A vaccine usually requires 10 to 15 years of research and testing before it shows up at the doctor's office. But Dale is willing to wait.

"I do not really have a 'Plan B,'" he said. "I plan to continue working on the clinical development of GAS vaccines until they are available to everyone that could benefit."

Eye protection on, ladies. We've got science to do. Photo by iStock.

While preventing strep throat completely is several years away, there are plenty of ways to stay healthy.

Strep is easily contagious, as any contact with droplets from an infected person's cough or sneeze can be all it takes to get yourself sick.

Sorry, you have strep. Don't go to work. And stop sharing sodas. Photo by iStock.

If you're living or working with someone with strep throat, keep your hands clean and try to avoid touching your eyes and mouth. And for once in your life, don't share. It's best to avoid sharing personal items like cups or utensils with anyone who may have symptoms.

Wash your hands long enough to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. Photo by iStock.

But don't worry, 24 hours after the infected person begins antibiotics, the risk of contracting the illness decreases dramatically, and you can go back to preparing for flu season, which is just around the corner.

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Harriet Tubman was the best known "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses that helped thousands of enslaved black Americans make their way to freedom in the north in the early-to-mid 1800s. Tubman herself escaped slavery in 1849, then kept returning to the Underground Railroad, risking her life to help lead others to freedom. She worked as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war dedicated her life to helping formerly enslaved people try to escape poverty.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Kenneth Goldsmith / Twitter

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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