THE number of scarlet fever cases in East Staffordshire is continuing to rise – leading public health chiefs to give fresh advice on how to curb the spread of the infection.
New guidelines are being issued to schools and nurseries as the borough experiences the highest levels of scarlet fever for 30 years.
Figures show there have been 94 reported cases county-wide since September, 29 of which were in East Staffordshire.
Figures collated from 2011 show there were just two confirmed cases during the same period three years ago.
Nationally, there have been 1,000 confirmed cases of the illness in the last week.
Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet support member for public health, said: “The new guidelines are being issued to schools and nurseries to help control the spread of infection if an outbreak occurs.
“This includes letters to parents and staff detailing what to look out for and the steps to take if Scarlet Fever is suspected, together with a reminder of the importance of good hygiene practice.”
Scarlet fever is most common in young children between the ages of two and eight.
Historically, it has been a life-threatening condition, but, although there is still no vaccine, it can now be treated with antibiotics.
Symptoms of sufferers, which are noticeable two-to-five days after infection, include a rash, sore throat, high temperature, swollen tongue and flushed cheeks.
Dr Alison Teale, public health consultant with Staffordshire County Council, said: “Scarlet Fever is a seasonal illness and Public Health England is investigating to see if there is an underlying cause for this unexpected sharp rise in cases.
“However, it is extremely contagious so can quickly spread in places like nurseries and schools so we are asking staff and parents to be on the lookout for symptoms such as the rash to help control any outbreaks.
“Anyone who thinks a child has Scarlet Fever should see their GP or contact NHS 111 as soon as possible and if diagnosed with the illness stay at home for at least 24 hours after being prescribed antibiotics.”
Public health officials are advising people to wash their hands often, not share cutlery, dispose of tissues and wash handkerchiefs.
A county council spokesman said: “Be aware is an airborne illness, so can be picked up by infected person coughing near you.
“Parents should also be aware that there is a small risk of the infection leading to complications including ear infections, throat abscesses, pneumonia and, very rarely, to more serious conditions potentially affecting the liver, kidneys or heart.”
Derbyshire was put on red alert for scarlet fever in March.
The authorities sent out a warning after 40 cases were reported between January and March.
Derbyshire County Council cabinet member for health and communities Dave Allen said: “We want to help prevent anyone catching the disease where it can be avoided and are urging parents with children who display symptoms to seek treatment.”