The number of reported cases of scarlet fever has fallen, but nurses working in primary care are being urged to remain vigilant, Public Health England (PHE) has said.
Figures released by PHE have shown that 415 new cases were reported in the week of 5 May, a smaller increase than in previous weeks.
Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE's head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said: 'Practice nurses need to be aware that, while there has been a decline, there is still a lot of scarlet fever around. There is a disparity in areas, so nurses should consult the figures on the PHE website to see their local situation. It is also very important that any cases of scarlet fever should be reported to the local health authority, particularly if a nurse suspects an outbreak at a school or nursery.'
The current total number of cases for this season (9 September 2013 to 11 May 2014) in England and Wales is 9030. In comparison, the 2012/2013 season recorded 3319 cases. PHE has received more notifications of scarlet fever cases this season than at any time since 1980, when notifications totalled 11,118.
There has been no confirmed reason for the dramatic increase in scarlet fever cases this year, although it has been suggested that a new strain of the bacteria has emerged. Dr Lamagni said: 'At the moment, that is just speculation, though it is a reasonable hypothesis. We are working with regional microbiologists to compare recent throat isolates to historical data of scarlet fever.'