A number of young children have been diagnosed with suspected scarlet fever in Crewkerne. Public Health England have recorded the cases of the pre-school aged children in the town. In a statement PHE said: “Although scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, it should be treated with antibiotics to minimise the risk of complications and reduce the spread to others.”
Symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. These initial signs are followed by a red rash which typically appears first on the chest and stomach, rapidly spreading to other parts of the body. The rash may be harder to spot on more darkly pigmented skin but will feel like sandpaper. The face can be flushed but pale around the mouth and other signs are a ‘strawberry tongue’ – that appears to be red and bumpy, swollen glands in the neck and/or enlarged tonsils with yellow or white discharge present.
Public Health England is advising parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms and contact their GP or call the NHS helpline on 111 as soon as possible if they think their child has the illness. Scarlet fever is a disease that predominantly affects children but can also occur in adults, as a result of a streptococcus infection. The bacteria is usually spread by people who are infected coughing and sneezing or when someone touches an object with bacteria on it and then touches their mouth or nose.
Although there is no vaccine against scarlet fever, it can be prevented by frequent hand-washing and not sharing personal items. It can be treated with a full course of antibiotics, prescribed by a medical practitioner. Those with the infection are advised to stay away from others at nursery schools, toddler groups, playgroups, schools and work for at least the first 24 hours after starting the course of antibiotics. Long-term complications are rare, however, children who have recently had chickenpox are more likely to develop a more serious infection.
Parents are asked to remain vigilant for symptoms such as a persistent high fever, cellulitis (skin infection) and joint pain and swelling. Parents of children who have an underlying medical condition which affects the immune system, should contact their hospital doctor if their child appears to have scarlet fever, to see if any additional measures are needed. Hospital admissions for scarlet fever in England increased 97% between 2013 – 2016. According to a health protection report from Public Health England, 17,350 cases have already been recorded this year. The reason why there has been an alarming increase in reported outbreaks of the disease remains unclear.