Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection caused by Group A Streptococcus. It mostly affects children under 10 years of age.
It usually starts with a fever and sore throat. Headache, vomiting and abdominal pain may also occur. The tongue may have a distinctive "strawberry"-like (red and bumpy) appearance. A "sandpaper" texture-like rash would commonly begin on the first or second day of illness over the upper trunk and neck, which spreads to the limbs. The rash is usually more prominent in armpits, elbows and groin areas. It usually subsides after one week and is followed by skin peeling over fingertips, toes and groin areas.
Scarlet fever is sometimes complicated with middle ear infection, throat abscess, chest infection, meningitis, bone or joint problems, damage to kidneys, liver and heart, and rarely toxic shock syndrome.
Mode of transmission
The bacteria are present in the mouth, throat and nose of the infected person. They are transmitted through either respiratory droplets or direct contact with infected respiratory secretions.
Usually 1 - 3 days
Scarlet fever can be effectively treated with antibiotics. If you develop symptoms of scarlet fever, consult the doctor promptly and take antibiotics according to doctor’s advice. Symptoms may partly be relieved by parallel use of fever-lowering drugs, rest and plenty of fluids.
There is no vaccine available against scarlet fever. Members of public are advised to reduce their chance of getting infection by adopting the following measures:
- Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene
- Always keep hands clean and wash with liquid soap when they are dirtied by mouth and nasal fluids
- Cover your nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing and dispose of nasal and mouth discharge properly
- Avoid sharing personal items e.g. eating utensils and towels
- Maintain good ventilation
- Children suffering from scarlet fever should refrain from attending school or child care setting until fever has subsided and they have been treated with antibiotics for at least 24 hours.
Prevention of Scarlet Fever (Infographic):