Scarlet Fever At A 24-Year High In The UK

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England is currently experiencing a resurgence of scarlet fever.

The number of cases during the first eight weeks of this year has reached 868, compared to a figure of 591 during the same period in 2013. This is the highest number of reported cases since 1990.

The East Midlands area has reported 134 cases during the first two months of 2014, compared to 56 during the same time period last year.

The incidence of scarlet fever usually increases during the winter months as the bacteria is normally found in saliva and mucus which is easily spread through sneezing and coughing. Children are more prone to develop the illness, although adults are also at risk.

The symptoms related to the illness include:

• Headaches
• Sore throat
• Swollen glands in the neck
• Peeling skin on the toes and the fingertips
• A white tongue coating

The symptoms will normally disappear within a week. Most of the time the symptoms will be mild provided a full course of antibiotics is completed to avoid complications.

Individuals who are diagnosed with scarlet fever should remain at home for a period of at least 24 hours after the commencement of antibiotic treatments. This will limit the transferal of the infection to others.

The head of PHE’s streptococcal infection surveillance unit, Dr Theresa Lamagni, has confirmed that the increase in the cases of scarlet fever will be closely monitored. The unit intends to work closely with professionals in healthcare in an attempt to stop the spread of this infection.

Image credit: Christiaan Triebert

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