Scarlet fever cases on the rise in Sussex

Picture from perpetualplum on Flickr

Picture from perpetualplum on Flickr

First published in News by , Health reporter

Heath bosses have issued a warning following a rise in cases of the highly infectious scarlet fever.

Sixty-three people in Sussex have contracted the bacterial illness in January and February, sparking fears that the 175 reported cases across the county in 2013 could be outstripped.

Public Health England (PHE) said that there have been widespread increases in the number of cases across the country, the highest for this time of year since 1990.

A PHE spokeswoman said that there are seasonal rises in scarlet fever between December and April each year.

Every few years there is also a notable increase in the number of cases and the latest bout of infections is likely to be part of that cycle.

The organisation has warned health officials to be “mindful” of the rise in figures when treating patients.

The most noticeable symptom of scarlet fever is a distinctive pink-red rash that feels like sandpaper to touch.

Other symptoms include a high temperature, a flushed face and a red, swollen tongue.

It is “extremely contagious” and can be caught by breathing in bacteria from an infected person’s coughs and sneezes, touching the skin of a person with a streptococcal skin infection and sharing contaminated towels, baths, clothes or bed linen.

Figures obtained by The Argus show that there have been 16 cases this year in Brighton and Hove, 38 in West Sussex and nine in East Sussex.

In 2013 there were 46 in Brighton and Hove, 87 in East Sussex and 42 in East Sussex.

PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, Theresa Lamagni, 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 in the majority of cases remain reasonably mild providing a course of antibiotics is completed to reduce the risk of complications.

“Children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection.

“We will continue to closely monitor these increases and work with healthcare professionals to try to halt the spread of infection.”

There is no vaccination for the illness, which is most common in children aged two to eight.

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