According to report from Public Health England (PHE), there has been a significant rise in incidences of scarlet fever across England. At present, 600 weekly cases are being recorded and a total of 6157 new cases since the season began in September 2015.
Scarlet fever is highly contagious and with more cases expected as we approach peak season at the end of March to mid-April, it’s important to know what to look out for and how to protect the spread.
What is Scarlet Fever? Scarlet Fever is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, also known as group A streptococcus. It usually follows a sore throat or a skin infection caused by particular strains of the bacterium. The initial symptom is a raised red rash which may be itchy and is often concentrated around the groin, elbows and armpits. It can start in one area, but soon spreads to many parts of the body, such as the ears, neck and chest. Other symptoms include a high temperature, a flushed face and a furred tongue which later turns red and swollen. This tongue resembles a strawberry (hence the term strawberry tongue).
How could I get it? Scarlet fever is highly contagious and children between 2 to 8 years old are very vulnerable but it can also occur in older children and adults. It can be caught by breathing in droplets of bacteria from an infected persons coughs or sneezes, touching the skin of a person with a streptococcal skin infection, not washing your hands as well as sharing contaminated towels, baths, clothes or bed linen. In order to reduce the risk of acquiring the disease you must make sure you wash your hands very thoroughly after touching droplets or mucous from the infected individual. Also do not use cutlery, glasses, bottles or cups an infected person has used. If you do come into contact with the disease, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly especially if you touch the infected person.
What is the treatment? If you do come into contact with the disease, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly, especially if you have touched the infected person. The treatment is antibiotics which must be taken for 10 days, even though most people recover after four to five days. This is to ensure the bacterium is totally removed from the body so it cannot cause further complications. If parents think children may have scarlet fever, then it is important to seek medical advice from their GP for a proper diagnosis.
Preventing spread of scarlet fever – The best prevention for spreading scarlet fever is by simply maintaining a good hand hygiene regime, especially after coughing or sneezing. People should wash their hands with soap and warm water after disposing of tissues. All clothes and bedding should be washed immediately and it is important to avoid sharing contaminated utensils, glasses, cups clothes, baths, bed linen or towels.
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Dr Lisa Ackerley comments, “Harmful viruses and bacteria surround our everyday lives and can be spread easily through your hands, particularly after using the toilet, handling raw meat or travelling on public transport. With shocking research that one in five people don’t wash their hands after using the toilet, it’s worrying to see how far germs can be unknowingly transferred to other surfaces via the hands, for example to otherwise clean kitchen worktops, office desks, keyboards and phones. Although it is impossible to remain completely germ-free at all times, there are times when hand cleanliness is critical, and there are ways to ensure you can protect yourself, even when on the go. Washing hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds is recommended and in addition, using hand gels with antiviral and antibacterial properties like TOTAL Advanced Defence can provide extra protection against many germs which spread quickly especially in busy places such as in the work place and on public transport where you can’t get to a wash basin.”
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*Survey of 1,000 people conducted by One Poll, September 2013