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Scarlet fever: ‘Substantial increase in reported cases across England’

Health officials in England are advising parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever upon reporting substantial increases of the bacterial illness across the country.

This patient revealed a scarlet fever rash on the volar surface of the forearm due to group A Streptococcus bacteria
Image/CDC

The latest Health Protection Report showed 6,225 cases of scarlet fever had been reported since mid-September 2017, compared to 3,764 for the same period last season. There were 719 cases reported for the most recent week (22 to 28 January 2018).

This increasing trend is in line with usual patterns although cases are currently higher than those reported at this point in the last 4 seasons.

Nick Phin, Deputy Director at Public Health England, 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.

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.

Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness; Public Health England is advising parents to be on the lookout for scarlet fever symptoms, which include a sore throat, headache and fever with a characteristic fine, pinkish or red rash with a sandpapery feel. If signs of scarlet fever are suspected, it is important to contact your local GP or NHS 111. Early treatment with antibiotics is important and can help reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia and the spread of the infection. 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.

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