Alert as ‘Scarlet Fever’ returns

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An infectious disease linked with the Victorian era has made a startling comeback – with 12 cases already confirmed in Scarborough.

The number of children diagnosed with scarlet fever across the country has reached a 50-year high.

Schools throughout the town are warning parents to watch for symptoms. The breaks have risen dramatically with 6,157 new cases confirmed in England since September, according to Public Health England.

Yorkshire and the Humber has been the worst hit with 832 confirmed - compared to just 149 in 2010/2011.

And the outbreak is expected to increase as the once feared disease, which usually affects children between the ages of two and eight, reaches its peak, typically between late March and mid April.

Primary schools including Gladstone Road Primary, Wheatcroft School, East Ayton Community Primary School and Newby and Scalby Nursery have all had pupils fall ill from the Victorian disease.

Gladstone Road Primary School confirmed two pupils have contracted scarlet fever.

Headteacher Keith Wright said: “There is two confirmed cases. It’s a low number for the size of the school but we are being proactive in informing people so they can be aware. It is precautionary.”

The school has informed parents of the outbreak in school and across Scarborough .

Mr Wright added: “The message was to advise parents so they can look out for symptoms and they can act on them.

“We want to raise awareness so people can be vigilant.”

Wheatcroft School and East Ayton Community Primary School have both had one confirmed case.

Other diseases common in Victorian times that are now making a comeback include cholera, whooping cough, and scurvy.

Public Health England (PHE) is alerting health practitioners to be mindful of the increases when assessing patients as close monitoring and rapid response to potential outbreaks and early treatment with appropriate antibiotics remains essential.

East Ayton School. Scarborough. pic Richard Ponter 161208b

East Ayton School. Scarborough. pic Richard Ponter 161208b

Dr Simon Padfield, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with PHE in North Yorkshire and the Humber said: “Scarlet fever is an infectious disease which is spread through close contact with individuals carrying the organism that causes it or indirect contact with objects and surfaces contaminated with the bacterium.

“Parents can play a key role in recognising when their child needs to be seen by their GP. Early signs to look out for are sore throat, headache and fever. The characteristic pinkish red sandpapery rash appears within a day or two, typically on the chest and stomach first but then spreading to other parts of the body.

“If you think you or someone in your household may have scarlet fever, you should seek advice from your GP as soon as possible, as prompt antibiotic treatment is needed. Symptoms usually clear up within a week and the majority of cases get better without complications, as long as the recommended course of antibiotics is completed.”

The reasons behind the dramatic increase are unclear, but may reflect the long-term natural cycles in disease incidence seen in many types of infection. Results of specialist testing undertaken by PHE show that the rise is not due to the emergence of a new strain of the infection and investigations into alternative reasons are ongoing.

Figures show that 17,586 cases were reported in England in 2015 which is the highest total since 1967, compared to just 1,678 in 2005.

Dr Padfield added: “Scarlet fever is highly infectious so children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay off school or work until at least 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection.”

Scarlet fever was once a very dangerous infection, but has now become much less serious. Antibiotic treatment should be given to minimise the risk of complications.