Parents have been warned to be on the lookout for signs of Scarlet Fever as U.K. cases hit a 50-year high.
According to Public Health England, around 600 people are being diagnosed with the infection every week. Between September 2015 and March 2016 there were 6,157 reported cases, compared to only 1,457 cases during the same period in 2010 and 2011.
Scarlet Fever is a bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, a group A streptococcus that is found on the throat and the skin. Because the symptoms are so similar to meningitis acting quickly is key. Occasionally Scarlet Fever can lead to severe and life-threatening diseases.
What are the early signs of Scarlet Fever?
Early signs of the infection include a sore throat, headache and high temperature (38C or above). Within a day or two, a pink or red rash appears on the skin, which will feel like sandpaper to the touch, and usually starts on the chest and stomach before spreading elsewhere on the body, such as to the neck and ears. Typically the area immediately around the mouth will not be affected by the rash.
Other signs of Scarlet Fever include a swollen tongue with a white-coating, flushed cheeks, swollen neck glands, tiredness, peeling skin on the fingertips, nausea, vomiting and fever.
Who is most at risk of Scarlet Fever?
Children under the age of 10 are most at risk of catching the infection, with the two- to eight-year-old group the most at risk. It is highly contagious and adult cases have also been rising. Anyone who has had impetigo is also at risk of developing Scarlet Fever as it is a similar streptococcal skin infection.
What should you do if you or your child has Scarlet Fever?
If you think you or your child has Scarlet Fever make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. The infection was once considered dangerous but it is less common nowadays and easily treated with antibiotics.
If your child has Scarlet Fever they should not go to school or nursery until at least 24 hours after they have started their course of antibiotics. Adults with the infection should also not go into work until antibiotics have been started.
Prevent the infection spreading by washing your hands often, keeping eating utensils separate, washing or binning contaminated handkerchiefs and tissues and keeping others, especially children, away from infected people if possible. Scarlet Fever can be caught by breathing in airborne droplets containing the bacteria from an infected person's cough or sneeze, touching the skin of a person with impetigo or Scarlet Fever and using contaminated towels, bed linen and clothes.
Contact your GP or NHS 111 if you are concerned about Scarlet Fever symptoms.