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There has been a continued substantial increase in scarlet fever cases in England.

A total of 7,198 new cases have now been reported since the season for scarlet fever infections began in September 2013, including 1,049 new cases from March 31 to April 6, Public Health England (PHE) reports.

Scarlet fever is mainly a childhood disease and is most common between the ages of two and eight years. It was once a very dangerous infection but is now less threatening although complications can happen especially if sufferers do not get treated. There is currently no vaccine for scarlet fever.

New guidance has been issued to try to help manage potential outbreaks in schools, nurseries and other child care settings, to help tackle the current high levels of the fever, according to PHE consultant epidemiologist Dr Vanessa Saliba.

She said: The guidelines are based on a rapid review of the evidence and expert advice and will be kept under review as new evidence emerges.

The guidelines also include resources such as template letters for parents/guardians, staff and GPs highlighting the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever and the need for symptomatic children to stay off school and see their GP promptly. If a diagnosis of scarlet fever is made, antibiotics should be given and the child must stay off school until they have received 24 hours of antibiotics.

Scarlet fever is a seasonal disease and this is the time of year when the highest numbers of cases are typically seen, a drop in numbers of cases should occur in the coming weeks.

An average of 1,836 cases of scarlet fever have been reported for the same period from September to April in the previous 10 years, PHE said.

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