Doctors warn over surge scarlet fever amid concern cases yet to peak

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There has been a “steep” rise in cases of scarlet fever in England, health officials are warning.

Public Health England (PHE) said 1,265 new cases were reported in the first six weeks of 2015.

Last week alone saw 300 new cases across the country, which is ahead of the “high season” between March and April.

Doctors said the increase was “above what is typical for this time of the year”, and advised schools and nurseries to look out for signs of the illness and let local health protection teams know as soon as possible if they believe children are affected.

In Yorkshire, numbers of cases are up 66 per cent on the same period last year. A total of 158 have been reported so far at a rate running above the national average.

More than 14,000 cases of scarlet fever were reported in England last year, the highest since the late 1960s.

Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said: “The first symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat and fever which may be accompanied by a headache, nausea and vomiting.

“Between 12 to 48 hours after this, a characteristic fine, sandpapery rash develops, often appearing first on the chest or stomach.

“Individuals who think they or their child may have scarlet fever should consult their GP. Symptoms usually clear up after a week and in the majority of cases remain reasonably mild providing a course of antibiotics is completed to reduce the risk of complications.

“As scarlet fever is highly contagious, children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection.”

The illness is most common between the ages of two and eight. It was once a very dangerous infection but is now less threatening, although complications can happen without treatment.