Scarlet fever hits highest levels in UK since 1960s

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Parents in the UK are being warned to look out for symptoms of scarlet fever as the number of cases reaches the highest levels since the 1960s. The Independent reports that Public Health England has announced that the number of people becoming infected has increased rapidly over the last few weeks and has doubled since the start of 2018. In fact, data shows that there were 735 cases of scarlet fever in England and Wales in the week ending 28 January alone, making it the biggest seven-day outbreak since April 2017.

The report says some 17,350 cases have already been recorded this year, with the final amount due to be calculated next week. “Whilst current rates are nowhere near those seen in the early 1900s, the magnitude of the recent upsurge is greater than any documented in the last century,” said Dr Theresa Lamagni, from Public Health England. “We are strongly urging people with symptoms of scarlet fever, which include a sore throat, headache and fever accompanied by a characteristic rash, to consult their GP.”

While it is most common in young children it can affect people of any age, the National Health Service (NHS) reports.

The report says the symptoms of scarlet fever develop within a week of being infected and include a sore throat, headache, high temperature, swollen glands in the neck and being sick. This can then be followed by a rash that’s made up of pink-red blotches, feel like sandpaper and are brightest in body folds likes armpits or elbows. It will turn white if you press a glass on it. While the rash doesn’t typically spread to the face, the cheeks can turn very red and look similar to sunburn. Finally, a white coating may form on the tongue which peels away after a few days, leaving it red and swollen. This is also known as “strawberry tongue.”

The report says the usual treatment is with antibiotic tablets (or liquid for young children) to help reduce the length of time the infection is contagious, speed up recovery and reduce the risk of any further problems.

The Independent report

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