Scarlett fever cases have been steadily declining over the last two centuries. However according to new research published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, new cases of the disease seem to be on the rise. The reason for the increase in unclear, but since 2009 the number of infections has been going up, especially in Eastern Asian countries including Vietnam, China and South Korea.

A recent outbreak in England has also caused cases to triple in one year; seeing an increase from 4700 in 2013 to over 15,000 in 2014. The number of hospital admissions related to the disease has also almost doubled between 2013 and 2016 from 700 to 1300 cases.

According to Theresa Lamagni of Public Health England who ran the study “Whilst current rates (in England) are nowhere near those seen in the early 1900s, the magnitude of the recent upsurge is greater than any documented in the last century. Whilst notifications so far for 2017 suggest a slight decrease in numbers, we continue to monitor the situation carefully … and research continues to further investigate the rise.”

Potential Complications

Complications of Scarlett Fever can include Bright’s disease and rheumatic fever, which can cause kidney damage or heart damage. Historically, the disease has caused devastating epidemics as without the use of antibiotics complications can be fatal.

It can affect anyone who catches the strep throat infection, although the disease usually affects children under the age of 10. Treatment consists of a course of antibiotics, and if followed correctly the infection will usually be gone within 2 weeks. However, if left untreated it can lead to serious complications including more serious illnesses of death.

Investigating the Increase

Scientists and health groups are still unclear as to why the disease seems to be resurfacing, and the study doesn’t give any insight into possible reasons for the increase in cases. Investigators are looking into some of the possible causes which include environmental changes and possible changes to human immune systems. They’re also looking into how the disease has spread between Asia and the UK.

Lamagni said “Whilst there is no clear connection between the situation in the UK and East Asia, a link cannot be excluded without better understanding of the drivers behind these changes. The hunt for further explanations for the rise in scarlet fever goes on.

“Guidance on management of outbreaks in schools and nurseries has just been updated, and research continues to further investigate the rise. We encourage parents to be aware of the symptoms of scarlet fever and to contact their (general practitioner) if they think their child might have it.”

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