This site is intended for health professionals only

Scarlet fever cases hit 34-year high

Public health leaders have urged parents whose children have a sore threat, fever and rash to see their GP to check for scarlet fever after figures revealed the number of cases in the country has hit a 34-year high.

Public Health England figures show that across 5-11 May there were 415 new cases, which is a 50% reduction on mid-April but means overall number for the year has risen to 8,322 – the most since 1980, when there were 11,118 cases.

Scientists are examining isolates to identify the possible reasons for the unusually high numbers.

Scarlet fever is a seasonal disease and, although there has been a decline in the number of cases, the fluctuating incidence this year indicates a ‘continued need to remain vigilant’, said PHE.

PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance Dr Theresa Lamagni said: ‘We will continue to monitor the situation closely to see if there is a sustained fall over the coming month. We strongly urge people to remain vigilant and to go to their GP if they develop symptoms which suggest scarlet fever, such as a sore throat, fever and rash.

Scarlet fever generally affects children aged 2-8 and usually involves a mild illness that can be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of further complications.