GPs braced for further scarlet fever surge as cases hit 24-year high

Officials have urged GPs to remain vigilant for symptoms of scarlet fever, after cases in England rose to their highest level in almost a quarter of a century.

Scarlet fever cases are at their highest level since 1990 (photo: SPL)
Scarlet fever cases are at their highest level since 1990 (photo: SPL)

A total of 3,548 cases of scarlet fever have been reported since the season began in September 2013, compared to an average of 1,420 reported over the same period in the past 10 years.

GPs should be ‘mindful’ of the current increase and prepare for a possible influx of patients with the condition, experts from Public Health England (PHE) said.

Cases are at their highest level since the 1989/90 season, when 4,042 new cases were reported in the same period. There have now been almost a thousand more cases than in the 2012/13 season. The majority affected, 87%, have been children aged under 10.

Scarlet fever cases cycle up and down over a period of several years and cases typically spike between December and April. This most recent increase is ‘likely to be part of that cycle’, PHE has said.

Scarlet fever is an infectious disease caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. It most commonly affects children between two and eight years old.

PHE is encouraging patients with symptoms including a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and a rash to visit their GP.

Officials also urged GPs to look out for cases of more serious invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) disease.

In a report on the oubtreak, it said: 'Clinicians, microbiologists and health protection teams should continue to be mindful of potential increases in invasive disease and maintain a high index of suspicion in relevant patients as early recognition and prompt initiation of specific and supportive therapy for patients with iGAS infection can be life-saving.'

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