PARENTS in Somerset are being warned to look out for symptoms of scarlet fever in their children after national cases reached a 24-year high.

Public Health England (PHE) has reported significant increases in scarlet fever notifications across England, with a total of 3,548 new cases since the season began in September 2013, compared to an average of 1,420 cases reported for the same period in the previous ten years.

The last season to have this level of scarlet fever activity was 1989/1990 when 4,042 notifications were received, health bosses said.

In Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, 114 cases were recorded between September and March, compared to 77 the year before.

Around 90% of scarlet fever cases occur in children under 10, and it is most common among children aged two to eight, particularly among four-year-olds. Adults can also catch the disease, but such cases are rarer.

Symptoms include:

  • Sore throat, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting
  • A characteristic fine red rash after 12-48 hours, on the chest and stomach, rapidly spreading to other areas. It feels like sandpaper to touch
  • Fever over 38.3C or higher is common
  • White coating on the tongue, which peels a few days later leaving the tongue looking red and swollen
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Feeling tired and unwell
  • Flushed red face but pale around the mouth
  • Peeling skin on fingertips, toes and groin, as the rash fades.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said: “The first symptoms of scarlet fever often include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Between 12 to 48 hours after this, a characteristic rash develops. Cases are more common in children although adults can also develop scarlet fever.

"Symptoms usually clear up after a week and the majority of cases can be treated with a course of antibiotics to reduce risk of complications.

“PHE recommends that people with symptoms of scarlet fever see their GP. Once children or
adults are diagnosed with scarlet fever we strongly advise them to stay at home until at least
24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection.

“PHE publishes guidance for schools where infections can spread easily. Where outbreaks
occur, local health protection teams are on hand to provide a rapid response, effective
outbreak management and authoritative advice.”

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