Scarlet fever in London: What is the Strep A infection and how many cases are in your area?

Rates of scarlet fever are above average this year, but are not at record highs.
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One south London borough is among the top ten areas of the UK with the most cases of scarlet fever, data has revealed.

Bromley, in south London, placed tenth in the UK with 13 cases reported to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), according to data analysis by NationalWorld.

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Ranking above it were: the Isle of Wight, Leeds, Allerdale, County Durham, Liverpool, Waveney, Cardiff, Birmingham, and Milton Keynes.

Scarlet fever is a highly contagious infection caused by the Strep A bacteria with symptoms including a sandpapery skin rash and a white coating on the tongue.

It used to be a very serious infection, but thanks to antibiotics most cases these days are mild and easily treated.

Pharmacists have said they are struggling to get penicillin, which is an antibiotic used to treat Strep APharmacists have said they are struggling to get penicillin, which is an antibiotic used to treat Strep A
Pharmacists have said they are struggling to get penicillin, which is an antibiotic used to treat Strep A

However, in very rare occasions, the bacteria that causes it - Strep A - can get into the bloodstream and cause a potentially deadly infection called invasive Group A Strep (iGAS).

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Parents are urged to seek medical advice if their child is getting worse, has a fever, is eating much less than normal or is very tired or irritable.

In England and Wales, the UKHSA publishes the number of scarlet fever cases reported in every local authority area.

Figures for the most recent week, up to December 4, show the Isle of Wight had the most cases that week, at 32.

This was followed by Leeds, with 22 cases, and Allerdale in Cumbria, with 20 cases.

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In London, Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing and Bexley ranked joint second with 12 cases each.

Lewisham and Lambeth were joint third with 11 cases each, while Croydon came fourth with 10 and Richmond upon Thames and Hounslow were fifth with nine cases each.

Dr Colin Brown, deputy director of the UK Health Security Agency said: “We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual.

“The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics.

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“In very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep (iGAS).”

He added: “This is still uncommon; however, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious.

“Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”

Rates of scarlet fever are above average this year, but are not at record highs. 2018 saw particularly high levels, with nearly 32,000 cases reported across England and Wales that year.

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So far this year, just over 23,000 cases have been reported to the authorities. The same period in 2018 saw 30,600 reports.

Scarlet fever rates dipped considerably during the coronavirus pandemic, due to social distancing restrictions and increased hygiene precautions such as handwashing.

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