The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that scarlet fever cases continue to remain higher than we would typically see at this time of year.
UK health officials are advising schools on how to combat Strep A infections.
Since Covid restrictions eased, there are more opportunities for infections like this to spread. Cases have been increasing in recent weeks.
While most people do not get extremely sick, the highly contagious bacteria that causes the infection can cause serious illness and complications.
What is Strep A?
It’s a bacteria sometimes found in the throat or on the skin.
Many people carry it harmlessly without even knowing, but they can spread it to others who might become ill.
How can you get it?
People can catch it through close contact and from coughs and sneezes.
Outbreaks can sometimes happen in places like schools and care homes.
What are the symptoms?
Most often, symptoms are mild – a sore throat or a skin infection that can be easily treated with antibiotics.
But Strep A can cause a range of things – and some of them are more serious.
One is scarlet fever, which mostly affects young children and, again, needs antibiotics.
Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious.
Therefore, look out for symptoms in your child, which include:
- a sore throat,
- swollen neck glands,
- fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel.
- On darker skin, the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will have a sandpapery feel.
- Someone who has scarlet fever may have what doctors call a strawberry tongue – because its appearance looks a bit like a strawberry.
Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you suspect your child has scarlet fever, because early treatment of scarlet fever with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection.
If your child has scarlet fever, keep them at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others.
How dangerous is Strep A (GAS) and am I at any increased risk of this disease?
It can be a serious illness, but if treated promptly with antibiotics, it is less of a threat. After at least 24 hours of antibiotics, it is generally thought to no longer be contagious.
Good hand and respiratory hygiene are important for stopping the spread of many bugs. By teaching your child how to wash their hands properly with soap for 20 seconds, using a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes, and keeping away from others when feeling unwell, they will be able to reduce the risk of picking up or spreading infections.
What should you do if you have symptoms?
Contact your GP and get medical advice straight away if you believe you or your child have symptoms of either GAS or iGAS.
Strep throat should be different from a regular sore throat, as the pain can come on quickly.
Dr Colin Brown, Deputy Director, UKHSA, said:
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.