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Scarlet fever cases highest since 1960s, PHE alerts GPs

14 March 2016

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The number of scarlet fever cases is now at its highest since the 1960s, Public Health England (PHE) has warned general practices.

In 2015 there were 17,586 cases of scarlet fever, the most since 1967, when there was 19,305 reported cases.

“As a result of these increases, PHE is alerting health practitioners so they can be mindful of this when assessing patients,” the statement read.

Scarlet fever is an infectious disease spread through close contact with individuals carrying the organism (often in the throat) or indirect contact with objects and surfaces contaminated with the bacterium causing scarlet fever. Typically there are seasonal rises in scarlet fever between December and April each year.

Close monitoring, rapid and decisive response to potential outbreaks and early treatment of scarlet fever with an appropriate antibiotic remains essential, especially given the potential complications associated with group A streptococcal infections, it urged.

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

Symptoms usually clear up after a week and the majority of cases will resolve without complication as long as the recommended course of antibiotics is completed.