Public Health England issues warning to parents as cases of scarlet fever rocket

Public Health England is urging parents to know the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever after an increase in confirmed cases of the bacterial illness.

The latest Health Protection Report (9 March 2018) showed 11,982 cases of scarlet fever have been reported since mid-September 2017, compared to an average of 4,480 for the same period over the last 5 years.

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From 12 to 18 February 2018 there were 1,267 reported cases.

Scarlet fever, which is a highly contagious seasonal bacterial illness, mainly affects young children, however adults can also contract the infection.

Nick Phin, Deputy Director at Public Health England, said an increase in cases should not alarm the public.

He said: “It’s not uncommon to see a rise in cases of scarlet fever at this time of year. Scarlet fever is not usually a serious illness and can be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of complications and spread to others. We are monitoring the situation closely and remind parents to be aware of the symptoms of scarlet fever and to contact their GP for assessment if they think their child might have it.”

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“Whilst there has been a notable increase in scarlet fever cases when compared to last season, greater awareness and improved reporting practices may have contributed to this increase.”

Signs you or your child might have scarlet fever

Signs and symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat, headache and fever with a characteristic fine, pinkish or red rash with a sandpapery feel.

Children or adults who develop scarlet fever are urged to stay at home for 24 hours after the start of the antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection.

Scarlet fever tends to last for about a week.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, added: “Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that usually presents with a sore throat, fever, headaches, and a rosy rash that generally starts on a patient’s chest.

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“It is a very contagious disease and much more common in children under 10 than teenagers or adults, but it can be treated quickly and effectively with a full course of antibiotics and all GPs are trained to diagnose and treat it.

“Scarlet fever used to be a lot more common than it is now, but GPs are noticing more cases than in previous years at the moment. If a patient thinks that they, or their child, might have symptoms, they should seek medical assistance.”