Be vigilant after cases of scarlet fever

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Parents, schools, nurseries and other childcare facilities are being urged to be vigilant to the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever following a rise in cases nationally.

Scarlet fever is mainly a childhood disease and is most common between the ages of two and eight years. It was once a very dangerous infection, but has now become much less serious.

There is currently no vaccine for scarlet fever.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, 550 notifications of possible scarlet fever have been reported to PHE so far in 2014 in Yorkshire and the Humber, compared to around 300 possible cases notified for the same period in 2013. Scarlet fever is a seasonal disease and this is the time of year when the highest numbers of cases are typically seen. As such, a decline in numbers of cases should become evident over the coming weeks.

Dr Wendy Phillips, Deputy Director of Health Protection at Public Health England’s (PHE) Yorkshire and the Humber Centre, said: “We are continuing to provide advice to healthcare professionals on the national rise in cases of scarlet fever also seen within our region and it is possible that the increase seen in recent weeks could be, in part, due to increased awareness of the infection.

“Anyone with symptoms of scarlet fever, which include a sore throat, headache and fever accompanied by a characteristic rash, should consult their GP.  Scarlet fever should be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of complications.

“Once children or adults are diagnosed with scarlet fever we strongly advise them to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection.

“Good hand hygiene is crucial in preventing the spread of the infection and children and adults should be encouraged to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough and sneeze, and to wash their hands after using or disposing of tissues.

“Whilst most cases of scarlet fever are mild and will resolve within a week, healthcare professionals should continue to be vigilant due to uncommon but possible complications of the illness.”