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Wednesday, 01 April 2015

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Scarlet fever on the rise in Cumbria

Health officials have warned about a rise in the number of children developing scarlet fever in Cumbria.

There have been 36 confirmed cases so far in 2014 but public health officials are concerned there may be more undiagnosed as people may not recognise the symptoms.

Public Health England, together with Cumbria County Council, is advising parents to be aware of the signs of scarlet fever.

Kate Brierley, of Public Health England’s Cumbria and Lancashire Health Protection Team, said they tended to see more cases in winter but the recent number “seemed to represent an increase in cases in a relatively short space of time”.

“As it’s a very contagious disease, we’d urge parents with children that are showing symptoms to see their GP and obtain treatment,” she said.

“Most mild cases of scarlet fever will clear up on their own, but having treatment for the illness speeds recovery and reduces the risk of complications.”

Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria that is often found in the throat and on the skin. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, and is characterised by a rash, which usually accompanies a sore throat.

The bacteria which cause the infection produce toxins which cause a rash, a red and swollen tongue and flushed cheeks. Other symptoms include a high fever, swollen glands in the neck and feeling tired and unwell.

Dr Rebecca Wagstaff, acting director of public health at Cumbria County Council, said there were typically 2,000 to 4,000 cases in England every year.

“Children with scarlet fever should be kept off school for 24 hours after the start of treatment and, during that time, be kept away from other children as much as possible,” she said.

“To help prevent the spread of infection, all tissues and cloths that someone with scarlet fever has coughed or sneezed into should be washed or disposed of immediately. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water if you have touched any of these.”

People are advised to see a doctor if they have any concerns about themselves or their children.

Current guidance advises that children should not return to nursery or school and adults to work until a minimum of 24 hours after starting treatment to avoid spreading infection.

People can help stop the spread of infection through frequent hand washing and by not sharing eating utensils, clothes, bedding and towels.


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