Families are being warned to look out for the signs of scarlet fever following a surge in recorded cases last month in Gloucestershire.
In February, the number of cases almost tripled compared with the same month in 2013.
In January, Gloucestershire saw five recorded cases and 15 last month. For the same two month period in 2013 there were just 11 recorded cases.
Less serious chicken pox has been widespread throughout the county this year, particularly in children and young people.
But although scarlet fever shows similar symptoms and is more rare, it can have more serious consequences.
Once considered as a very serious infectious disease triggered by the streptococcus bacteria, it can now be treated by a course of anti-biotics.
Parents were given a warning in January after an 18-month-old boy contracted the virus in Hester’s Way in Cheltenham.
Typically there are seasonal rises in scarlet fever between December and April each year, and also a cycle of increases and decreases in incidence that repeats over a period of several years.
This most recent increase is likely to be part of that cycle. As a result of these scarlet fever increases, PHE is alerting health practitioners such that they can be mindful of the current rise when assessing patients.
Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance said: “The first symptoms of scarlet fever often include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Between 12 to 48 hours after this, a characteristic rash develops. Cases are more common in children although adults can also develop scarlet fever.
“Symptoms usually clear up after a week and in the majority of cases remain reasonably mild providing a course of antibiotics is completed to reduce the risk of complications. Children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection.
“Public Health England publishes guidance for healthcare settings and schools where infections can spread easily.
“Where outbreaks occur, local health protection teams are on hand to provide a rapid response, effective outbreak management and authoritative advice.
“We will continue to closely monitor these increases and work with healthcare professionals to try and halt the spread of infection.”
Kat McLeer, manager of Treetops nursery in Gloucester, said: “We have 94 children here and luckily have had no cases of scarlet fever so far this winter, hopefully that will continue.
“All of the staff here are well aware of what the signs and symptoms are in children so that we can act swiftly if there is an outbreak.
“I’m not sure if parents have the same level of awareness as other more common conditions as the symptoms are fairly similar to other viruses.”
SCARLET FEVER: FACTS
Scarlet fever is a bacterial illness causing an itchy, distinctive pink-red rash that feels like sandpaper to touch.
It can quickly spread from one area to the ears, neck and chest.
See your GP as soon as possible.
Scarlet fever is extremely contagious and can be caught by breathing in bacteria in airborne droplets, by touch or by sharing contaminated towels, baths, clothes or bed linen
The UK has Between 2,000 and 4,000 cases each year .
Most children over 10 will have developed immunity.