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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cumbria England: A Rise in Cases of Scarlet Fever

A rise in the number of children developing scarlet fever has been recorded in Cumbria [England].

36 confirmed cases have been reported so far in 2014, but public health officials are concerned there may be more in the community as people may not recognise the symptoms.

Public Health England, working in partnership with Cumbria County Council, is advising parents to be aware of the signs of scarlet fever, after a rise in cases in children. Kate Brierley, of Public Health England's Cumbria & Lancashire Health Protection Team, said: "We tend to see more cases in winter, but this year [2014] seems to have seen an increase in cases in a relatively short space of time. As it's a very contagious disease, we'd urge parents with children that are showing symptoms to see their GP and obtain treatment. Most mild cases of scarlet fever will clear up on their own, but having treatment for the illness speeds recovery and reduces the risk of complications."

Scarlet Fever is a highly infectious disease caused by the bacteria [_Streptococcus pyogenes_ or Group A streptococci], often found in the throat and on the skin. It is spread by coughing and sneezing and is characterised by a rash, which usually accompanies a sore throat. The bacteria which cause the infection produce toxins which cause a rash, a red and swollen tongue and flushed cheeks. Other symptoms include a high fever, swollen glands in the neck and feeling tired and unwell.

Dr Rebecca Wagstaff, acting Director of Public Health at Cumbria County Council, said: "Between 2000 and 4000 cases of scarlet fever are diagnosed each year in England. Children with scarlet fever should be kept off school for 24 hours after the start of treatment and, during that time, be kept away from other children as much as possible. To help prevent the spread of infection, all tissues and cloths that someone with scarlet fever has coughed or sneezed into should be washed or disposed of immediately. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water if you have touched any of these."

If you think you, or your child, has scarlet fever: See your family doctor as soon as possible. Make sure that you/your child takes the full course of any antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. Current guidance advises that children should not return to nursery or school and adults to work until a minimum of 24 hours after starting treatment to avoid spreading infection. You can help stop the spread of infection through frequent hand washing and by not sharing eating utensils, clothes, bedding and towels, and all contaminated tissues or handkerchiefs should be washed or disposed of immediately.

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