A total of 7854 cases of scarlet fever have been reported since mid-September 2018, according to the latest report by Public Health England.
This is compared to an average of 9617 for the same period over the last 5 years. There were 456 cases reported for the most recent week (18 to 24 March 2019).
‘It’s not uncommon to see a rise in cases of scarlet fever at this time of year. Scarlet fever is contagious but not usually serious 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,’ said Dr Theresa Lamagni, Senior Epidemiologist at Public Health England.
‘PHE is investigating possible reasons for why there has been a rise in scarlet fever cases over the last few years by studying the strains of bacteria causing disease and the spread of infection in different settings and patient groups.’
Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness but is highly infectious. Public Health England has said that healthcare professionals should advise parents to be on the lookout for symptoms. These include a sore throat, headache and fever with a characteristic fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel.
‘Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that generally affects children under 10 more than teenagers or adults. It is very contagious but can be quickly and effectively treated with a full course of antibiotics. GPs would also recommend patients to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and use antihistamine tablets or calamine lotion for relief of symptoms related to the rash,’ said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs.
‘We have seen more cases of scarlet fever in the last few years than we’ve been used to – we’re unsure why this is, but if a patient thinks that they, or their child, might have symptoms, then they should seek medical advice.’