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Scarlet fever infections jump to 30-year high

Scarlet fever infections in the UK have continued to rise to the highest levels for more than 30 years. 

Between 24-30 March alone 883 cases were confirmed. 

A total of 5,012 new cases have now been reported since the season began in September 2013, compared to an average of 1,420 cases reported for the same period in the previous 10 years.

The increases in scarlet fever have been seen across the UK. Whilst most cases of scarlet fever are mild and will resolved within a week, continued vigilance by healthcare professionals remains essential due to uncommon but possible complications.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE's head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said: “We are continuing to see increases in scarlet fever notifications across England and are working closely with healthcare professionals to try and understand the reasons behind these increases and do our best to reduce the impact of this infection.

“PHE urges people with symptoms of scarlet fever, which include a sore throat, headache and fever accompanied by a characteristic rash, to consult their GP.  Scarlet fever should be treated with antibiotics to reduce risk of complications.

“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.”

Scarlet fever is mainly a childhood disease and is most common between the ages of two and eight years. It was once a very dangerous infection, but has now become much less serious. There is currently no vaccine for scarlet fever.