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28 July 2011
Scarlet Fever  

Causative agent

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection caused by Group A Streptococcus. It mostly affects children under 10 years of age.

Clinical features

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 1 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.

Incubation period

Usually 1 - 3 days.

Management

Scarlet fever can be effectively treated with antibiotics. If you develop symptoms of scarlet fever, consult your doctor promptly and take antibiotics according to your doctor"s advice. Symptoms may partly be relieved by parallel use of fever-lowering drugs, rest and plenty of fluids.

Prevention

There are no vaccines available against scarlet fever. The public is 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
    • Keep good airflow
  • Sick children should refrain from school or child care settings until fever is down and have been treated with antibiotics for at least 24 hours

Other languages

Be Vigilant against Scarlet Fever (Poster):

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