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Third season of unusually high scarlet fever cases recorded

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Scarlet fever can be recognised through a red rash Scarlet fever can be recognised through a red rash

Public Health England has reported steep increases in scarlet fever across England with a total of 6157 new cases since September 2015.

This is the third season in a row where scarlet fever cases have been markedly higher than previously recorded and this year has seen the highest levels since the 1960's.

Around 600 cases are being notified each week at present with further increases expected during peak season, which typically occurs between late March and April.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE's head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said that PHE local protection teams were on hand to provide a rapid response, effective outbreak management and authoritative advice. 'Symptoms usually clear up after a week and the majority of cases will resolve without complication as long as the recommended course of antibiotics is completed. Potential complications include ear infection, throat abscess and pneumonia. Patients who do not show signs of improvement within a few days of starting treatment should seek urgent medical advice.'

All parts of the country have been affected by the increased numbers of scarlet fever cases seen over the past three years. Notifications of more severe infection caused by the same bacterium (group A streptococcus) are also showing a slight increase in recent weeks and this will be monitored closely too.

PHE is alerting health practitioners so they can be aware when they are assessing patients. It is essential to closely monitor potential outbreaks and provide early treatment of scarlet fever with an appropriate antibiotic.

Scarlet fever is an infectious disease spread through close contact with individuals carrying the organism (often in the throat) or indirect contact with objects and surfaces contaminated with the bacterium causing scarlet fever. There are typical seasonal rises in scarlet fever between December and April each year.It is mainly seen in children aged between two-eight years.

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