Health chiefs in Cumbria say 2014 has been an “exceptional” year for scarlet fever, reporting the highest figures since records began. In the last two weeks alone, there have been 62 confirmed cases of scarlet fever in the county, prompting public health chiefs to issue a warning to parents, schools and nurseries.
Dr John Astbury, from Cumbria and Lancashire Public Health England (PHE) Centre, said: “This has been an exceptional year for the disease and we can confirm that the figures are higher than any year since our records began in 2008. Scarlet fever is a seasonal disease and this is the time of year when the highest numbers of cases are typically seen. As such, a decline in numbers of cases should become evident over the coming weeks.”
One mum, whose 11-month-old son was taken into hospital with the illness on Tuesday night, said doctors at the Cumberland Infirmary said they were dealing with the worst outbreak in 40 years.
Dr Astbury said he could not confirm this figure as they did not start officially recording levels until recently.
Scarlet fever is mainly a childhood disease and is most common between the ages of two and eight.
A sore throat and fever or high temperature are the typical first symptoms of scarlet fever. A bright red or scarlet rash then soon develops. The rash starts as small red spots, usually on the neck and upper chest. It may feel like fine sandpaper when you touch it and it can soon spread to other parts of the body. The rash goes white if you press on it. Other common symptoms include: headaches, vomiting, being off food and feeling generally unwell.
In England, 1,049 new cases of scarlet fever were reported between March 31 and April 6. PHE says children who are showing symptoms should stay off school and see their doctor.
In the past, scarlet fever used to be a very serious condition but today it is a mild, self-limiting illness and can be treated with antibiotics.
Although it is infectious, deaths from the disease are extremely rare.