Scarlet fever

Key facts

  • Scarlet fever is an infectious disease characterized by a high fever, a sore throat or a skin infection and a rash. Following 2-7 days of rash, the skin peels off.
  • Most cases of scarlet fever are mild, but complications can develop, including acute rheumatic fever and/or acute kidney disease.
  • Scarlet fever is usually a childhood disease and occurs most commonly in winter and spring.
  • Scarlet fever usually occurs following infection with group A streptococcus in the throat or on the skin. Only about 10% of the group A streptococcus that cause disease produce the toxin (poison) that causes scarlet fever.
  • Like all group A streptococcal diseases, scarlet fever is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets or through direct contact with mucus, saliva or the skin of infected people.
  • The disease can be treated with readily available antibiotics.
  • The most effective way to prevent scarlet fever or complications that may develop from the disease are to wash hands often, avoid direct contact with anyone who has the disease and to seek medical advice if any of the symptoms develop.

The situation

  • Scarlet Fever is in the list of category B of notifiable diseases to be reported according to the Law of Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control of China.
  • An outbreak of scarlet fever hit Hong Kong (China) in 2011. Over 600 cases were reported in Hong Kong by the end of June 2011, with two deaths.
  • In 2011, China reported a total of 63,878 cases, compared with 22,068 and 20,876 in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
  • An unprecedented, large outbreak of childhood scarlet fever occurred in Shanghai between April and July 2011. No severe outcome was found.
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