The number of scarlet fever cases recorded during the autumn and winter season in the UK has more than doubled due to newly confirmed infections, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Officials say that due to the scale of infections since November, another 9,945 have been added to those recorded between September 12 and December 11.
The additional infections recorded mean the number of confirmed cases for the period, 17,695, is 128% higher than previously thought. These are just infections that have been confirmed by a test performed by doctors. That’s significantly higher than the 2,538 at the same time in 2017 and 2018, the last time the numbers were comparatively this high.
The UKHSA said a week later, between December 11 and December 18, a further 9,482 scarlet fever infections were subsequently reported to the agency, bringing them to 27,177.
This means the total is now higher than all of 2017 and 2018 together, with two more weeks of reports to be released by the government.
The UKHSA said that due to the increase in cases “notifications of scarlet fever cases are taking longer to appear in our published data after being processed”.
A total of 16 children under the age of 18 have died from invasive group A streptococcus (iGAS), otherwise known as strep A.
The bacteria causes scarlet fever, which can then develop into a more serious invasive infection.
Scarlet fever can cause flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature, sore throat, and swollen cervical glands, which may appear as a large lump on the side of the neck.
An eruption then appears between 12 and 48 hours later.
Parents are advised to contact 111 or a medical practice if a child has symptoms. They can also include nausea and vomiting.
New severe shortage protocols were issued to pharmacists last week in a bid to help those with penicillin supply issues.
Chemists had widely reported problems sourcing liquid penicillin and amoxicillin due to increased demand. Antibiotics are often prescribed for children with scarlet fever or strep A. People in the industry have also reported rising prices.
Pharmacists are now able to prescribe an alternative antibiotic or penicillin formulation, such as tablets.