Shocking scarlet fever statistics released by Public Health England show that last week there were 253 confirmed cases in London.

The worst hit borough, for the week ending March 3, was Bromley, which had 25 cases of scarlet fever.

There were also 11 cases in Croydon, nine in Greenwich and Sutton, six in Merton and Lewisham, four in Bexley, and three in Wandsworth, Richmond, and Kingston.

It is most common in children under 10 years old and requires immediate treatment, as complications can be chronic illnesses such as arthritis, kidney disease, or rheumatic fever.

What are the symptoms?

  • Early signs are a sore throat, a headache, a high temperature, swollen glands in the neck, and being sick.
  • A pinkish/red sandpapery rash can also appear within a day or two. The rash usually first appears on the chest and stomach before spreading to other parts of the body.
  • A white coating on the tongue, which peels away to leave the tongue red and swollen, is also typical.

How is it treated?

The infection needs prompt treatment with antibiotics owing to the potential for complications and more severe illness caused by its group A strep bacteria.

How long does it last?

Symptoms of scarlet fever usually clear up in a week and most cases are uncomplicated as long as children finish the course of antibiotics.

Public Health England said the parents of any child who does not show signs of improvement within a few days of starting treatment should seek urgent medical advice.

What should I do if my child has it?

Any child diagnosed with scarlet fever should not go to school until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment while any adult affected should stay off work for at least 24 hours after starting treatment. There is no vaccine for scarlet fever.