Data from the UK Health Security Agency has revealed that Liverpool is facing some of the highest rates of scarlet fever in the country.
Scarlet fever is a highly contagious infection caused by the Strep A bacteria. Symptoms include a sandpapery skin rash and a white coating on the tongue. It used to be a very serious infection, but thanks to antibiotics most cases these days are mild and easily treated.
However, in very rare occasions, the bacteria that causes scarlet fever - Strep A - can get into the bloodstream and cause a potentially deadly infection called invasive Group A Strep (iGAS). On Tuesday, it was announced a ninth child had died from an illness linked to the Strep A infection, during the current mini-outbreak in the UK.
Meanwhile, four-year-old Camila Rose Burns is fighting for her life at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital after being diagnosed with Strep A. She has been taken off a ventilator and remains in intensive care.
Parents are urged to seek medical advice if their child is getting worse, has a fever, is eating much less than normal or is very tired or irritable. A list of symptoms to look out for can be seen below.
Figures for the most recent week, up to December 4, show the Isle of Wight had the most cases that week, at 32. This was followed by Leeds, with 22 cases, and Allerdale in Cumbria, with 20 cases. Liverpool was ranked fifth, with 16 cases.
Rates of scarlet fever are above average this year, but are not at record highs. 2018 saw particularly high levels, with nearly 32,000 cases reported across England and Wales that year.
So far this year, just over 23,000 cases have been reported to the authorities. The same period in 2018 saw 30,600 reports. Scarlet fever rates dipped considerably during the coronavirus pandemic, due to social distancing restrictions and increased hygiene precautions such as handwashing.
Amount of scarlet fever cases in Merseyside regions
- Liverpool: 16 cases - ranked 5th.
- Wirral: 10 cases - ranked 23rd.
- Knowsley: 8 cases - ranked 33rd.
- Sefton: 7 cases - ranked 40th.
- St Helens: 0 cases - ranked 257th.
Advice from health officials
Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of the UK Health Security Agency said: “We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual. The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics. In very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep (iGAS).
“This is still uncommon; however, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious.
“Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”
Symptoms of scarlet fever
- Sore throat
- A fine, pinkish or red body rash with a tiny, rough pimples (“sandpapery” feel) - on darker skin the rash can be more difficult to see but the skin will have a sandpapery feel
- Very red tongue or lips
Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you are worried your child has Scarlet Fever, because early treatment of with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection. It is highly infectious so keep your child at home until at least 24 hours after beginning antibiotics.