GPs urged to report scarlet fever after spring outbreak

GPs have been advised to report any cases of scarlet fever they diagnose, after a Public Health England (PHE) report revealed the disease is currently twice as prevalent as it was this time last year.

Scarlet fever: GPs urged to be vigilant (Photo: Science Photo Library)

Although currently in the midst of the seasonal disease’s winter slump of activity, PHE has advised GPs to stay on the lookout for possible cases after early indications revealed higher levels of the disease than normal.

GPs should ‘notify their local PHE protection team’ if they make any diagnoses or become aware of possible outbreaks of the disease, PHE said. 

The peak of last season saw the number of scarlet fever cases surge to the highest seen for over a quarter of a century, prompting PHE to send out special guidance and urging GPs to watch out for potentially life-threatening symptoms.

Incidence rates of scarlet fever are typically lower throughout the autumn and winter months and rise throughout the year, usually peaking around April.

Disease could spread further

Figures for the beginning of this season show twice as many notifications for the disease compared to the same period last year, as seen in PHE’s weekly protection report. The document warns this ‘may increase further’.

But a PHE spokeswoman said it was ‘impossible to know at this stage’ whether the figures spelled an even greater rise in cases this spring compared to last season's sudden outbreak.

She said: ‘The elevation we’re currently seeing may be due to improved recognition and/or notification practice. 

‘Alternatively it may indicate a higher level of incidence of disease but again, this doesn’t necessarily mean this will be sustained throughout the season.’

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