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Big rise in suspected scarlet fever cases across Herefordshire
THE county has seen a four-fold rise in scarlet fever notifications since the start of this month.
Latest data from Public Health England (PHE) shows 25 notified cases in the county as of today (Thursday) up from six as of April 10.
Notified cases are those based on GP assessment, confirmation comes from laboratory tests.
As yet, the data does not designate statistical patterns as to the spread of the illness across the county.
The six earlier cases were said to be sporadic and offering no evidence of a cluster spread.
County GPs are already on standby for symptoms of the highly infectious illness common in children.
Health authorities in the county have stressed that - as yet - there is no need to go on outbreak alert.
PHE is managing a substantial increase in scarlet fever notifications across England.
A total of 7,198 new cases have now been reported since the season began in September last year.
Scarlet fever is a seasonal illness and this is the time of year when the highest numbers of cases are typically seen.
PHE expects the number of notified cases to fall over the coming weeks.
This week, PHE published new guidance on the public health management of scarlet fever outbreaks in schools, nurseries and other child care settings.
The guidance will support Health Protection Teams, working closely with schools, nurseries and colleagues in local authorities, to control outbreaks of scarlet fever in child care settings and protect vulnerable children and adults.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, PHE Consultant Epidemiologist, said: “The guidance has been developed in response to the current high levels of scarlet fever to assist local health protection teams in controlling the spread of infection in schools and nurseries when an outbreak is identified. The guidelines are based on a rapid review of the evidence and expert advice and will be kept under review as new evidence emerges.
“The guidelines also include resources such as template letters for parents / guardians, staff and GPs highlighting the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever and the need for symptomatic children to stay off school and see their GP promptly. If a diagnosis of scarlet fever is made, antibiotics should be given and the child must stay off school until they have received 24 hours of antibiotics.
“PHE strongly urge schools to embed good hand hygiene practices within daily routines for pupils and staff. 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.”
Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said: “As scarlet fever cases continue to increase, PHE are working closely with healthcare professionals to assess the impact on the frequency of complications. We have a system in place to obtain a sample of strains from across the country to assess whether a new strain may have emerged.
“While we hope that the Easter school break will assist in breaking the chains of transmission in schools, reducing numbers of cases, we cannot assume or rely on this being the case. As such, our investigations and assessment of the impact of this extraordinary rise in scarlet fever continue.”
Scarlet fever is mainly a childhood disease and is most common between the ages of two and eight.
Once a very dangerous infection it is now much less serious, although complications can arise, particularly in those who remain untreated.
There is currently no vaccine for scarlet fever.
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