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Nurses told to be on lookout for potential cases of scarlet fever

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A “concerning” increase in cases of scarlet fever is continuing across England, public health officials have warned.

Public Health England’s latest data shows a high number of scarlet fever notifications, with a total of 1,265 new cases reported in the first six weeks of 2015.

Steep increases in scarlet fever activity are being seen across the country, with over 300 cases reported last week, said PHE in its latest health protection report.

“We ask frontline medical staff to be mindful of the current high levels of scarlet fever activity when assessing patients”

Theresa Lamagni

Increases in scarlet fever are normal in the run up to March and April, noted the agency. However, the numbers of cases currently being reported are “above what is typical for this time of the year”.

“While this might reflect heightened awareness and improved diagnosis and/or notification practices, the high number of cases currently being notified are of concern,” said PHE.

Last year in England, over 14,000 cases of scarlet fever were notified, the highest total since the late 1960s. 

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said: “As we enter into high season for scarlet fever, we ask GPs and other frontline medical staff to be mindful of the current high levels of scarlet fever activity when assessing patients. 

“Prompt notification of cases to local health protection teams is critical to enable local monitoring and rapid response to outbreaks,” she said.

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

“Between 12 to 48 hours after this, a characteristic fine, sandpapery rash develops, often appearing first on the chest or stomach,” she said. “Cases are more common in children although adults of all ages can also develop scarlet fever.”


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