DOCTORS have reported a scarlet fever outbreak after hundreds of children were infected across England and Wales in just one week.
The highly-contagious disease, which used to kill thousands back in the 19th century, is now on the rise – particularly among young kids.
The infection, named for its shocking red rash, mostly afflicts the young but is not as serious as it once was and can now be treated with antibiotics.
More than 480 cases have now been reported across England and Wales, the Mirror reported.
The highest number of new cases were in the North West (105), Yorkshire and the Humber (53) and the East Midlands (59).
Across the capital, 54 cases of have also been diagnosed, with another 36 in outer London, according to official health statistics.
However, it isn’t unusual to see a sharp rise in the number of recorded cases at this time of year as the infection is notoriously seasonal, a Public Health England spokesman said.
Symptoms of scarlet fever
Remember, you can be infectious for up to a week before any symptoms start to be visible.
But when they do kick in, they can include:
- flu-like symptoms
- high temperature of 38’C or above
- swollen neck glands
- a pink-red rash that looks a bit like sunburn. Starts on the chest and tummy
- a white coating on the tongue
- swollen, red, peeling tongue
- flushed cheeks
Scarlet Fever is usually quite a mild illness which can be easily treated with antibiotics but is still incredibly contagious.
The infection can be prevalent for up to seven days before the symptoms start and it can remain highly infectious for two weeks after symptoms begin without a course of antibiotics.
If you think that your child might have scarlet fever, then you need to contact your GP or ring NHS 111.
While scarlet fever is easily treatable, it really just depends on how early you catch it.
Leaving it too late can lead to much more serious complications, such as pneumonia – an illness which kills more kids than any other disease in the UK.
If you or your child has it, you need to stay at home for at least 24 hours after starting the antibiotic treatment, so that you don’t spread it to other people.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Patients with scarlet fever usually present with flu-like symptoms including a sore throat, fever and headache, as well as a characteristic rosy rash – usually on the patient’s chest initially.
“Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that generally affects children under 10 more than teenagers or adults.
“It is very contagious but can be quickly and effectively treated with a full course of antibiotics.
“GPs would also recommend patients to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and use antihistamine tablets or calamine lotion for relief of symptoms related to the rash.
“We have seen more cases of scarlet fever in the last few years than we’ve been used to – we’re unsure why this is, but if patient thinks that they, or their child, might have symptoms, then they should seek medical advice.”
According to the NHS, your GP can often tell if someone’s got the infection simply by looking at the tongue and rash.
While the antibiotics they’ll prescribe won’t cure scarlet fever, they’ll stop you from being infectious within 24 hours and will make you less likely to develop something like pneumonia.