London scarlet fever cases skyrocket as parents urged to be vigilant against infection

Scarlet fever cases in London have nearly doubled in the last year as health officials warn parents to be vigilant as the number of infections skyrocketed to levels last seen in the late 1960s.

Last year more than 14,000 cases were recorded across the country and London has seen 115 new cases in the first six weeks of this year.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, has warned both parents and GPs to be on the look out for symptoms.

“Cases are more common in children although adults of all ages can also develop scarlet fever,” she said.

“The first symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat and fever which may be accompanied by a headache, nausea and vomiting.

“Prompt notification of cases to local health protections teams is critical to enable local monitoring and rapid response to outbreaks.”

Before the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s scarlet fever was a major cause of death for infants and often led to severe complications.

After 12-24 hours the infection can cause a distinctive ‘pinhead’ rash and if left untreated, can lead to meningitis, pneumonia and blood poisoning,

The infection is known to spread in schools and nurseries through direct physical contact and contact with surfaces such as tabletops or toys.

Parents who think their child may be suffering from the disease should contact the NHS on 111 or their GP surgery for advice and should not take their child out unless advised.

Good hygiene, particularly washing hands, remains the most important way to prevent and control the spread of infection.

Schools and nurseries that suspect they have one or more children with scarlet fever are encouraged to contact the local health protection team on 020 8327 7181.

Picture courtesy of Lucas Hayas, with thanks

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