Parents should be on the look out for signs of Scarlet Fever in their children, with new cases of the illness reported in Calne and surrounding towns this week.
The highly contagious infection mainly affects young children and is not usually serious if treated.
The first symptoms can be flu-like, including a high temperature of 100F (38C) or above and swollen neck glands. A rash, which looks like sunburn and feels like sandpaper, usually appears a few days later.
What you need to know
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of scarlet fever develop within a week of contracting the infection. Early signs include a sore throat, a headache, a high temperature (38.3°C/101°F according to NHS advice), swollen glands in the neck and vomiting.
This may be followed by a rash on the body, a red face and a white or red tongue. The scarlet fever rash usually starts on the chest or tummy, before spreading to other areas. It feels like sandpaper, and is made up of pink-red blotches that may join up. It turns white if you press a glass on it. The child’s cheeks may also turn very red, while the area around the mouth stays pale.
Sometimes a white coating may form on the tongue which peels away after a few days, leaving the tongue red and swollen.
You must see your GP as soon as possible if you think you or your child has scarlet fever.
A GP can usually diagnose scarlet fever by looking at the rash. Sometimes they may use a cotton bud to remove a bit of saliva from the throat for testing.
How do you treat it?
Treatment with antibiotics is recommended to reduce the length of time the infection is contagious, speed up recovery and reduce the risk of any further problems.
You should start feeling better after a day or two, but you must make sure to finish the whole course of treatment.
How long does it last and how can you stop it spreading?
Scarlet fever usually clears up within a week, although your skin may peel for a few weeks after the other symptoms have subsided.
It is very contagious and can be spread in the tiny droplets found in an infected person’s breath, coughs and sneezes.
It remains contagious from before the symptoms appear, until 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment, or - if you didn’t take antibiotics - up to two or three weeks later.
Those thought to have scarlet fever should contact their GP straight away as early treatment with antibiotics is important and can help reduce the risk of any complications and prevent the spread of the illness to others.
Children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing it on to others as it is highly contagious.