Scarlet fever rise sees 300 cases reported last week

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Scarlet fever cases are on the rise again across England, with 1,265 new cases reported in just the first six weeks of this year – and more than 50 in our region. 

Scarlet fever is an infectious disease caused by group A streptococcus bacterium. Typically there are seasonal rises in scarlet fever between December and April each year, and steep increases are being seen across the country, with more than 300 cases reported in last week alone (2nd – 9th February). 

The first symptoms often include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Between 12 and 48 hours after this, a characteristic rash develops. Although it’s more common in children, adults are also susceptible and symptoms usually clear up after a week following a course of antibiotics. 

Scarlet fever is extremely contagious and can be caught by: 

  • breathing in bacteria in airborne droplets from an infected person's coughs and sneezes
  • touching the skin of a person with a streptococcal skin infection
  • sharing contaminated towels, baths, clothes or bed linen.

Public Health England is recommending that that people with scarlet fever symptoms see their GP. Once children or adults are diagnosed with scarlet fever they are strongly advised to stay at home until at least 24-hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection. However, Trust clinicians should be aware of the outbreak in case any patients present with relevant symptoms. 

Further information is available on the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) website; the clinical knowledge summary on scarlet fever contains further details on presentation and advised treatment. It should be noted that extra care should be taken with high risk patients when considering conveyance to hospital. 

Scarlet fever is mainly a childhood disease and is most common from two to eight-years-old. It was once a very dangerous infection, but has now become much less serious, despite the fact that there’s no vaccine against it.

Published 22nd February 2015 

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