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Scarlet Fever Cases Continue to Increase

March 16, 2015
Public Health

The current outbreak of scarlet fever is well on the way to producing the highest number of cases in over 50 years, with rates expected to peak by the end of the month.

Public Health England reported that since September there have been 5,746 new cases, which is double the number in the same period last year.

More than 750 new cases were reported in England last week with the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber showing the highest rates of infection. The illness, which causes sore throat, headache, fever and a characteristic pink rash tends to peak in March and April each year.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said “Close monitoring, rapid and decisive response to potential outbreaks and early treatment with antibiotics remains essential, especially given the potential complications. Given that the scarlet fever season should peak within the next few weeks, we should see a reduction in numbers soon, but in the meantime substantial numbers of people will continue to be affected.”

GPs, schools and nurseries are being urged to inform local health protection teams if they become aware of cases. Before treatment with antibiotics, the infection was a major cause of death amongst children due to complications such as streptococcal pneumonia, meningitis and kidney damage.