Scarlet fever: Signs every parent MUST know about as disease hits 50-year high in England

The number of scarlet fever cases has reached a 50-year high in England, a report has revealed.

A total of 620 outbreaks were reported last year alone - the equivalent of seven times the number of cases within five years.

Scientists aren’t sure what has caused the rise in the number of cases, but they haven’t discounted a link to the rise in scarlet fever numbers in East Asia.

Public Health England urged parents to take their children to a GP if they begin to show signs of the infectious disease, which can cause a pink-red rash and a fever.

“Whilst current rates are nowhere near those seen in the early 1900s, the magnitude of the recent upsurge is greater than any documented in the last century,” said PHE’s Head of Streptococcal Surveillance, Dr Theresa Lamangi.

“Whilst notifications so far for 2017 suggest a slight decrease in numbers, we continue to monitor the situation carefully.

“Guidance on management of outbreaks in schools and nurseries has just been updated and research continues to further investigate the rise.

“We encourage parents to be aware of the symptoms of scarlet fever and to contact their GP if they think their child might have it.”

All areas of England reported a marked rise in scarlet fever cases, with children under 10 years old representing 87 per cent of total cases.

In 2013 - before the rise in cases - scarlet fever was reported in about 8.2 people per 100,000, on average, the report said. But, by the following year, the number of cases had risen to 27.2 people per 100,000.

The number of people hospitalised from the condition almost doubled between 2013 and 2016 - up to 1,300.

Several countries in East Asia also reported a rise in scarlet fever, including Vietnam, China, South Korea, and Hong Kong.

Some of the strains of bacteria found in the UK were also found in Hong Kong, the researchers said.

Dr Lamagni said: “Whilst there is no clear connection between the situation in the UK and East Asia, a link cannot be excluded without better understanding of the drivers behind these changes. The hunt for further explanations for the rise in scarlet fever goes on.”

Scarlet fever is an infection, caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, and is most common in young children.

Symptoms of the condition include a sore throat, headache, fever, and swollen glands in the neck.

It also causes a rash, characterised by pink-red blotches that feels like sandpaper. It usually starts on the chest or stomach, before spreading to other areas, the NHS said.

The cheeks can turn very red, appearing like a sunburn, while a white coating may form on the tongue. The condition, known as strawberry tongue, usually lasts a couple of days, before the white peels away, leaving it red and swollen.

Scarlet fever is usually treated with antibiotics. Taking painkillers and drinking plenty of fluids could also help to relieve symptoms, the NHS said.

Contact your GP or NHS 111 if you’re concerned your child may have scarlet fever, or if you show signs of the infection.



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