Public Health England has published new guidance on managing outbreaks of scarlet fever in schools and nurseries to help combat an “extraordinary rise” in the number of cases.
Nearly 7,200 cases have been reported since September last year, compared to an average of around 1,800 for the same period over the last 10 years.
There were 1,049 new cases reported in one week alone from 31 March to 6 April this year.
The new guidance is primarily aimed at health protection teams which work closely with schools, childcare settings and councils to control outbreaks and protect vulnerable children and adults.
The seasonal disease, which typically occurs from December to April – hitting a peak in March – is highly contagious with teams automatically notified of all suspected cases.
While it is usually a mild illness, patients can develop complications including ear infections, throat abscesses, pneumonia and meningitis, kidney disease and rheumatic fever.
Public Health England said it was working closely with healthcare professionals to examine the frequency of complications and was gathering samples from across the country to work out whether a new strain of the disease had emerged.
“While we hope the Easter school break will assist in breaking the chain of transmission in schools, reducing numbers of cases, we cannot assume or rely on this being the case,” said Dr Theresa Lamagni, Public Health England’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance.
“As such, our investigations and assessments of the impact of this extraordinary rise in scarlet fever continue,” she added.
|Number of cases in 2013/14 season|
|PHE Centre Name||(weeks 37 in 2013 to weeks 15 in 2014)|
|Anglia and Essex||319|
|Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire||557|
|Cheshire and Merseyside||340|
|Cumbria and Lancashire||307|
|Devon, Cornwall and Somerset||239|
|Kent, Surrey and Sussex||478|
|South Midlands and Hertfordshire||380|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||655|