Scarlet Fever

July 2011

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 however 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.
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