Torbay’s Public Health Team is giving advice on scarlet fever after an increase in cases locally and nationally.

Steep increases in scarlet fever activity are being seen across the country, with over 300 cases reported last week, 2 to 9 February 2015. In the last three weeks, there have been 62 cases reported for the south west region.

Scarlet fever is a childhood disease most common between the ages of 2 and 8 years and occurring mainly during the winter and spring. It was once a very dangerous infection, but has now become much less serious.

The bacterial illness causes a distinctive pink-red rash, which is like sandpaper to touch. It is uncommon in the UK today and only usually seen in a mild form. It often starts with a sore throat, headache and a high temperature, with a rash developing 12 to 28 hours later.

It may start in one area but soon spreads to other parts of the body such as the ears, neck, chest, elbows, inner thighs and groin and may be itchy. Other symptoms include a high temperature, a flushed face and a red, swollen tongue. In milder cases, sometimes called scarlatina, the rash may be the only symptom.

Cllr Chris Lewis, Executive Lead for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Scarlet fever used to be very serious, but most cases today are mild. It can easily be treated with antibiotic tablets which must be taken for ten days, although most people recover after four to five days.

“With proper treatment, further problems are unlikely. However, there is a small risk of infection spreading to other parts of the body. If you think your child has scarlet fever contact your GP.”

Scarlet fever is extremely contagious and can be caught by:

  • Breathing in bacteria in airborne droplets from an infected person’s coughs and sneezes
  • Touching the skin of a person with a streptococcal skin infection
  • Sharing contaminated towels, baths, clothes or bed linen.

If your child has scarlet fever do not let them go to school and keep them away from other people until they have been on a course of antibiotics for at least 24 hours.

All tissues and cloths that someone with scarlet fever has coughed or sneezed into should be washed or disposed of immediately. Hands that have touched any of these items must be washed or disposed of immediately.

Avoid sharing contaminate eating utensils, cups and glasses, clothes, baths, bed linen or towels.

Symptoms usually develop two to five days after infection and you will be contagious before showing signs of illness.
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