Over 1300 new cases of scarlet fever were reported between 21 and 27 March, the highest total since records began in 1982.
A total of 10,570 cases of scarlet fever have been reported since the current season began in September 2015. A total of 593 cases of invasive group A streptococcus infection, which is linked to scarlet fever, have been reported, compared to 440 cases for the same period last year (January to March). This can cause bloodstream infection or pneumonia.
‘While we hope that the Easter school break will assist in slowing down transmission of the bacteria causing scarlet fever, we cannot assume or rely on this being the case,’ said Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance. ‘As such, our investigations and assessment of the impact of this extraordinary rise in scarlet fever continue.’
This is the third season in a row where elevated scarlet fever activity has been noted. A total of 15,637 notifications were made in England and Wales in 2014, rising to 17,590 in 2015. According to PHE, weekly activity this season has been similar or slightly above for that last year.
‘As we reach peak season for scarlet fever, health practitioners should be particularly mindful of the current high levels of scarlet fever when assessing patients,’ added Ms Lamagni. ‘Close monitoring, rapid and decisive response to potential outbreaks and early treatment of scarlet fever with an appropriate antibiotic remains essential, especially given the potential complications associated with group A streptococcal infections.’