Warning to all parents as Victorian disease spreads in schools

PARENTS have been warned to watch for signs of a ‘Victorian disease’ spreading in schools.

Scarlet fever was one of the leading causes of death in children in the 19th century.

Scarlet fever causes a high temperature


Scarlet fever causes a high temperatureCredit: Alamy

Thanks to medicine, it has become both significantly rarer and less dangerous.

However, cases of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly virus have increased in recent years.

There has been an increase in the number of cases since 2014, with between 15,000 and 30,000 cases being diagnosed in England each year, government statistics show.

In recent weeks, the UK Health and Safety Agency (UKHSA) has been closely monitoring infection rates in north-west England.

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It kept writing Twitter: “Scarlet fever – as we move into peak season, make sure you are aware of the symptoms.

“High temperature, sore throat and swollen cervical glands, severe rash and tongue coating.”

About 90 percent of cases affect children under the age of 10.

outbreaks in England

A number of scarlet fever outbreaks have been reported in childcare and educational facilities in recent weeks.

It includes a nursery in Lancashire, a number of primary schools in Wigan and Salford, Greater Manchester.

In Cumbria, 203 schools or childcare facilities reported positive cases of the disease in two weeks, according to local news site Cumbria Crack.

The father of a child who had contracted scarlet fever and is a pupil at Bowker Vale Primary School in Manchester said he thought it was “Victoria’s disease”.

He told the Manchester Evening News: “I always thought it was a fairly old Victorian disease.

“My daughter started coughing, wouldn’t touch her food and had to go to sleep. We had trouble getting them back up. It was really different from her.

“The next morning she woke up with a rash all over her stomach and cheeks. We had never seen anything like it.”

The whole family contracted the bug in mid-March and was treated with antibiotics.


  1. Flu-like symptoms

According to the NHS, the first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature, sore throat and swollen throat glands.

For babies and children, the normal body temperature is 36.4°C (97.5°F), but again, the temperature can vary slightly.

A high temperature in a child or baby is also 38 °C (100.4 °F) or more.

In adults, a high temperature — known as a fever — is typically 38°C (100.4°F) or higher.

  1. rash

About 12 to 48 hours after someone becomes ill with flu-like symptoms, a rash appears on the chest and abdomen before spreading throughout the body.

It looks like small, raised bumps and makes the skin rough, like sandpaper.

The rash does not appear on the face, but the cheeks may appear red. However, the rest of the face may look pale.

The rash can be harder to see on tan and black skin and look more like a sunburn. But the roughness of the rash can still be felt.

As the rash fades, it causes skin peeling on the fingertips, toes, and groin area.

  1. strawberry tongue

Someone with scarlet fever may have a white coating on their tongue.

It peels off a few days after it appears, leaving a red and swollen tongue known as “strawberry tongue.”

Is scarlet fever dangerous?

Scarlet fever is eliminated in most cases with a 10-day course of antibiotics.

Thanks to antibiotics, scarlet fever is less common than it used to be and easier to treat.

The bug is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes or group A streptococci (GAS).

Occasionally, these bacteria can cause serious and life-threatening illnesses.

There is a risk that it can develop into liver, heart or kidney damage, meningitis, pneumonia and more.

The bug is highly contagious even when a person shows no symptoms.

It can be shared with others up to six days before symptoms appear and two to three weeks later.

But just 24 hours after you first take antibiotics, you are no longer contagious.

When to see a family doctor

If you think you or your child have scarlet fever, see a family doctor.

If symptoms don’t improve within a week of seeing your GP, go back, the NHS says.

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Because scarlet fever is so easily spread, your GP may prefer to speak to you over the phone.

The NHS says if you or your child has scarlet fever, stay away from nursery, school or work for 24 hours after taking the first dose of antibiotics. Warning to all parents as Victorian disease spreads in schools

Tom Vazquez

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