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News

Nurseries are being urged to practice good hand hygiene to ward off scarlet fever

High levels of scarlet fever are continuing across England with 405 new cases in the last week of April, according to Public Health England.

The Department of Health agency has called for nurseries, childcare settings and schools to embed good hand hygiene practice within their daily routines for children and staff and alert local Public Health England (PHE) Health Protection Teams if an outbreak of scarlet fever is suspected.

The PHE said children and adults should be encouraged to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough and sneeze and to wash their hands after using or disposing of tissues.

A total of 8,305 new cases have now been reported since the season began in September 2013.

Scarlet fever is a seasonal disease and this is the time of year when the PHE would expect to see a decline in the number of cases. Given the unusual rise in incidence seen this year, the PHE fears this seasonal pattern may not be observed.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said: “We are still observing exceptionally high numbers of cases and will continue to monitor the situation closely to see if there is a sustained fall over the coming weeks.

“We strongly urge people to remain vigilant and to go to their GP if they develop symptoms which suggest scarlet fever such as a sore throat, fever, headache and rash. “Whilst scarlet fever is usually a mild illness it should be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of further complications. It is mainly a childhood disease, most common between the ages of two and eight years, although adults can also develop scarlet fever.”

PHE has pledged to continue working closely with healthcare professionals to assess the impact of the high levels of scarlet fever on the number of complications reported.

Investigations also continue across the country to assess whether a new strain may have emerged.

May 2014