Cases of scarlet fever in England are twice the average level for this time of year, according to Public Health England.
Health officials have warned parents to look out for any signs of scarlet fever in their children after a rise in the number of cases reached a level not seen since the 1980s. There have been more than 15,500 cases of scarlet fever recorded in England between January and March this year, double the figure for last year and the highest number reported since 1982, according to Public Health England (PHE).
Scarlet fever is a highly contagious bacterial disease which mainly affects children. There is no vaccination against it but it's not usually serious if treated promptly with antibiotics.
Here's what to look out for:
- Rash – it feels rough to the touch and may look like sunburn
- Temperature – of 38C or above
- Sore throat
- Sore or swollen glands – check your child's neck
- Strawberry tongue – swollen tongue which looks very red, like a strawberry
Public Health England offers this guidance to parents and carers on how to prevent scarlet fever:
- Wash hands regularly
- Don't share eating utensils with someone with scarlet fever
- Wash or dispose of tissues / hankies used by anyone with an infection
- Remember you can catch scarlet fever by inhaling airborne droplets if someone with the illness coughs or sneezes near you
Contact your GP (or call 111 for an urgent medical condition) if you think your child has symptoms of scarlet fever. If antibiotics are prescribed, make sure the course is finished, and keep your child at home for at least 24 hours after starting antibiotics in order to minimise the risk of spreading the infection.