Strep A outbreak UK: Map breaks down scarlet fever case rates as infection kills 9 children

The UK Health Security Agency map detailing scarlet fever case rates across England and Wales highlights regions worst hit by Strep A outbreak

A map has revealed the latest scarlet fever case rates across England and Wales following the tragic death of nine children linked to the bacterial infection Strep A. The outbreak is causing alarm amongst parents with the UK Health Security Agency urging people to check for symptoms.

Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a common bacteria that is primarily found in the throat and on skin. It has the ability to cause infections, ranging from mild to severe especially when it enters the bloodstream.

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Discussing the current outbreak, deputy director of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Colin Brown said: “The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics [but] in very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep (iGAS).”

Scarlet fever is caused by the strep A bacteria and mostly affects young children aged five to 15. If the infection is not treated swiftly and appropriately it runs the risk of causing iGAS.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has released new data highlighting the scale of the outbreak - with more than 1,100 scarlet fever cases recorded in the last week. The South West of England has recorded the lowest number of cases with three whilst Wales has had double the number of cases than any region in England with 4.8 people per 100,000 with the infection.

Following this, regions with the lowest instances of scarlet fever include the North East with 59 cases, Yorkshire and Humber with 66 cases, and the West Midlands with 69 cases.

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The UKHSA map shows the South East of England topping the list with 186 cases with the North West of England following closely behind with 182. London has seen 156 cases reported by GPs and East of England and Wales has 150.

Another scarlet fever hotpot is the East Midlands with 122 reported cases.

Scarlet fever case rates across England and Wales via the UK Health Security Agency (per 100,000)

  • East Midlands - 2.5 people
  • East of England - 2.4 people
  • North West - 2.4 people
  • North East - 2.2 people
  • South East - 2 people
  • London - 1.7 people
  • Yorkshire and The Humber - 1.2 people
  • West Midlands - 1.2 people
  • South West - 0.05 people

What are the symptoms of scarlet fever to look out for?

The NHS guidance has asked parents to keep an eye on their children suffering the following symptoms for scarlet fever:

  • Flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature. 
  • Sore throat and swollen neck glands (a large lump on the side of your neck).
  • A rash appearing 12 to 48 hours later (small, raised bumps starting on the chest and tummy, before spreading). 
  • The rash makes the skin feel rough, like sandpaper.

Scarlet fever can be treated with a course of antibiotics and symptoms ahead of medical attention can be relieved by drinking cold fluids, eating soft foods, if your child has a sore throat, and using calamine lotion or antihistamine tablets to ease itching.

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Scarlet fever can be spread to other people up to six days before symptoms develop and until 24 hours after a first dose of antibiotics is taken.