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Scarlet fever rates higher than normal

Around 100 cases are being reported across England every week

Mark Gould

Monday, 24 November 2014

Public Health England (PHE) says that while levels of scarlet fever are low this season they are higher than normal for this time of year. PHE says that there were substantial increases in scarlet fever earlier this year and while infection rates are typically low during the autumn and early winter they are expected to gradually increase over the coming months.

Around 100 cases of scarlet fever are being reported each week across England which is just above what is typically expected for this time of the year. PHE says this could reflect either improved diagnosis or notification practices around the country following the widespread campaigns earlier in the year. However, it may also signal a continued elevation in disease incidence and as such, close monitoring and rapid response to potential outbreaks remains essential.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance said: "The first symptoms of scarlet fever often include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Between 12 to 48 hours after this, a characteristic rash develops. Cases are more common in children although adults can also develop scarlet fever. Symptoms usually clear up after a week and the majority of cases can be treated with a course of antibiotics to reduce risk of complications."

With antibiotic treatment, scarlet fever is not usually severe. Children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others.

Scarlet fever is mainly a childhood disease, most common between the ages of 2 and 8 years, although adults of all ages can also develop it.

PHE says schools, nurseries and childcare settings can play an important role in controlling the spread of infections by embedding good hand hygiene practice within daily routines for both pupils and staff. They should alert local PHE health protection teams if an outbreak of scarlet fever is suspected. Children and adults should be encouraged to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough and sneeze and to wash their hands after using or disposing of tissues.

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