DOCTORS say Britain looks to be heading for another large outbreak of scarlet fever.
Cases hit a 50-year high in 2015/16, and Public Health England say figures are on course for a similar rate this year.
The peak season for cases is usually in March and April, and parents are encouraged to learn the symptoms now.
In its latest report, Public Health England said rates of notified cases so far this season were highest in the East Midlands (8.6 per 100,000 people), followed by the North West (7.7), Yorkshire & Humber (7.5) and the North East (6.9).
There were a total of 546 cases reported across the north west from September to the end of January, an increase of 46 from the same time last year.
What are the symptoms?
Early signs to look out for are
- a sore throat
- a pinkish/red sandpapery rash appearing within a day or two
- the rash usually first appears on the chest and stomach before spreading to other parts of the body.
The NHS says other symptoms can include
- swollen neck glands
- loss of appetite
- nausea or vomiting
- red lines in the folds of the body, such as the armpit, which may last a couple of days after the rash has gone
- a white coating on the tongue, which peels a few days later leaving the tongue red and swollen
- a general feeling of being unwell
Is it contagious?
- Yes. Scarlet fever is highly contagious.
Who is most at risk?
- Children aged two to eight.
What should you do?
The infection needs prompt treatment with antibiotics owing to the potential for complications and more severe illness caused by its group A strep bacteria.
The NHS says: "See your GP as soon as possible if you think you or your child has scarlet fever. Although the illness usually clears up after about a week, your GP will be able to confirm a diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment."
Any child diagnosed with scarlet fever should not go to school until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment while any adult affected should stay off work for at least 24 hours after starting treatment.
How is it spread?
Scarlet fever is spread through close contact with infected people or indirect contact with objects and surfaces contaminated with the bacteria.
How long does it last and how serious is it?
Symptoms usually clear up in a week and most cases are uncomplicated as long as children finish the course of antibiotics.
Potential complications include ear infection, throat abscess and pneumonia. PHE said the parents of any child who does not show signs of improvement within a few days of starting treatment should seek urgent medical advice.
Long-term health problems from scarlet fever may include rheumatic fever, kidney disease or arthritis.
PHE said tests have ruled out the possibility of a newly emerging strain of strep group A that is more easily spread between people.
Is there a vaccine?
Where I can find out more imformation?