Parents are being urged to be extra vigilant this Easter, as experts warn cases of scarlet fever are rapidly increasing.
Reports indicate that since mid-September last year, there have been at least 11,981 cases of children diagnosed with scarlet fever symptoms compared to an average of 4,480 cases for the same five-month period last winter.
Scarlet fever is most common in children, and so far 89 per cent of cases have been reported in children aged 10 and under.
Common signs include a widespread, fine pink-red rash that feels like sandpaper to touch and turns white if you press a glass on it.
The rash usually starts on the chest or tummy before spreading to other areas but early signs include a sore throat, a headache, a high temperature, swollen glands in the neck and vomiting.
Health officials remain unclear as to why scarlet fever has suddenly returned and blame ‘long-term natural cycles’.
Dr Theresa Lamagni, from Public Health England, said: ‘While current rates are nowhere near those seen in the early 1900s, the magnitude of the recent upsurge is greater than any documented in the last century.
‘We are strongly urging people with symptoms of scarlet fever, which include a sore throat, headache and fever accompanied by a characteristic rash, to consult their GP.’
Nick Phin, deputy director at Public Health England, also advised parents to take their kids to the GP if they fear scarlet fever.
He said: ‘It’s not uncommon to see a rise in cases of scarlet fever at this time of year.
‘Scarlet fever is not usually a serious illness and can be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of complications and spread to others.
‘We are monitoring the situation closely and remind parents to be aware of the symptoms of scarlet fever and to contact their GP for assessment if they think their child might have it.
‘While there has been a notable increase in scarlet fever cases when compared to last season, greater awareness and improved reporting practices may have contributed to this increase.’
It is expected the numbers will continue to rise further over the coming weeks as the bacteria is most active in March and April.