WARNINGS have been made to parents to keep a sharp lookout for signs of scarlet fever after an outbreak of the infectious disease.
Diagnosed cases increased in East Staffordshire have risen sharper than anywhere else in the county, with 29 cases reported in the first quarter of 2014 – up from just two in the same time last year.
The spike mirrors a national trend, in which levels of the disease are at their highest for more than 30 years.
Mark Sutton (pictured), Staffordshire County Council’s public health chief, said health experts will investigate the cause of the outbreak, and have singled out the borough for particular attention.
He said: “There has been a sharp rise in the number of reported cases in the county and across the country.
“The council’s public health team is working closely with regional colleagues to see if there is a reason for the increase, particularly in East Staffordshire.
“In the meantime it is sensible to see your GP if you think your child may have symptoms.”
The telltale sign of the disease is a widespread, fine pink rash which feels like sandpaper to touch.
Most cases of scarlet fever are mild and can be treated with antibiotics, but it can lead to complications in some children and there is no vaccine.
Public health consultant for Staffordshire County Council, Dr Alison Teale, said parents should not to take any risks if they think their child is infected.
She said: “If children do have symptoms such as the fine red rash and high temperature then they should contact their GP as soon as possible.
“Although most children respond very well to antibiotics, the illness is very infectious so it is important that people are treated as swiftly as possible.”
Once the disease has taken hold, the rash can spread to the ears, neck and chest.
Other symptoms include a high temperature, a red face and swollen tongue.
SCARLET fever is an infectious disease which is usually most common among young children, aged between four and eight years old.
Its symptoms include fever, a characteristic red rash and a sore throat caused by bacteria called streptococcus.
A diagnosis of scarlet fever is less serious now than it used to be as antibiotics have been developed which can fight the infection.
But before these were available, scarlet fever – or scarlatina as it used to be known – was deadly.
The streptococcus bacteria which cause the infection come in different strains, it is the strain called group A streptococcus which causes scarlet fever.
The tell-tale red rash occurs when the bacteria releases toxins which make the skin go red after they get into the blood from the infected throat.
A patient’s tongue may also become pale and coated with red spots – a condition known as strawberry tongue.
Symptoms generally last about a week before fading.
When they subside, skin may peel as though it is sunburnt, while the rash may recur over the next three weeks.
It is believed to be more common in late winter or early spring.