Experts warn of steep increase in scarlet fever reports

Experts warn of steep increase in scarlet fever reports

PHE says that "steep increases" in scarlet fever activity are being seen across the country, with over 300 cases reported in the week to the 9th of February.

While it says increases in scarlet fever are normal at this time of year as we approach high season between March and April, the numbers of cases currently being reported are above what is typical for this time of the year. Whilst it says that this might reflect heightened awareness and improved diagnosis and/or notification practices, the high number of cases currently being notified is "of concern". Last year in England, over 14,000 cases of scarlet fever were notified, the highest total since the late 1960s.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance said: “As we enter into high season for scarlet fever, we ask GPs and other frontline medical staff to be mindful of the current high levels of scarlet fever activity when assessing patients. Prompt notification of cases to local health protection teams is critical to enable local monitoring and rapid response to outbreaks. Schools and nurseries should similarly be mindful of the current elevated levels of scarlet fever and promptly inform local health protection teams at an early stage if they become aware of cases, especially if more than one child is affected."

Dr Lamagni says the first symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat and fever which may be accompanied by a headache, nausea and vomiting. Between 12 to 48 hours after this, a characteristic fine, sandpapery rash develops, often appearing first on the chest or stomach.  Cases are more common in children although adults of all ages can also develop scarlet fever.

"Individuals who think they or their child may have scarlet fever should consult their GP. Symptoms usually clear up after a week and in the majority of cases remain reasonably mild providing a course of antibiotics is completed to reduce the risk of complications," Dr Lamagni said.

"As scarlet fever is highly contagious, 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 passing on the infection. For families and friends caring for someone with scarlet fever, the risk of spread can be reduced through frequent hand washing and ensuring clothes, bedding, towels and cutlery are not shared between members of the household," she said.

By Mark Gould,

OnMedica, Monday 16 February 2015

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