Alternative Names : Scarlatina
Scarlet fever is a disease caused by infection with the group A Streptococcus bacteria (the same bacteria that causes strep throat).Once a major cause of death, it is now effectively treated with antibiotics. The term scarlatina may be used interchangeably with scarlet fever, though it is commonly used to indicate the less acute form of scarlet fever that is often seen since the beginning of the twentieth century.
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It can affect people of any age. However, it’s most common between the ages of six and 12.
The time between becoming infected and having symptoms is short, generally 1 – 2 days. The illness typically begins with a fever and sore throat.
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The rash usually first appears on the neck and chest, then spreads over the body. It is described as “sandpapery” in feel. The texture of the rash is more important than the appearance in confirming the diagnosis. The rash can last for more than a week. As the rash fades, peeling (desquamation) may occur around the fingertips, toes, and groin area.
The common signs and symptoms that give scarlet fever are as follows:
*Red rash. The rash looks like a sunburn and feels like sandpaper. It typically begins on the face or neck and spreads to the trunk, arms and legs. If pressure is applied to the reddened skin, it will turn pale.
*Red lines. The folds of skin around the groin, armpits, elbows, knees and neck usually become a deeper red than the surrounding rash.
*Flushed face. The face may appear flushed with a pale ring around the mouth.
*Strawberry tongue. The tongue generally looks red and bumpy, and it’s often covered with a white coating early in the disease.
The rash and the redness in the face and tongue usually last about a week. After these signs and symptoms have subsided, the skin affected by the rash often peels. Other signs and symptoms associated with scarlet fever include:
*Fever of 101 F (38.3 C) or higher, often with chills
*Very sore and red throat, sometimes with white or yellowish patches
*Enlarged glands in the neck (lymph nodes) that are tender to the touch
*Nausea or vomiting
*Bright red color in the creases of the underarm and groin (Pastia’s lines)
*General discomfort (malaise)
*Swollen, red tongue (strawberry tongue)
Scarlet fever is caused by the same type of bacteria that cause strep throat. In scarlet fever, the bacteria release a toxin that produces the rash and red tongue.
The infection spreads from person to person via droplets expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The incubation period — the time between exposure and illness — is usually two to four days.
Children 6 to 12 years of age are more likely than are other people to get scarlet fever. Scarlet fever germs spread more easily among people in close contact, such as family members or classmates.
If scarlet fever goes untreated, the bacteria may spread to the:
Rarely, scarlet fever can lead to rheumatic fever, a serious condition that can affect the:
Diagnosis of scarlet fever is clinical. The blood test shows marked leukocytosis with neutrophilia and conservated or increased eosinophils, high erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP) (both indications of inflammation), and elevation of antistreptolysin O titer. Blood culture is rarely positive, but the streptococci can usually be demonstrated in throat culture. The complications of scarlet fever include septic complications due to spread of streptococcus in blood and immune-mediated complications due to an aberrant immune response. Septic complications—today rare—include ear and sinus infection, streptococcal pneumonia, empyema thoracis, meningitis and full-blown sepsis, upon which the condition may be called malignant scarlet fever.
Immune complications include acute glomerulonephritis, rheumatic fever and erythema nodosum. The secondary scarlatinous disease, or secondary malignant syndrome of scarlet fever, includes renewed fever, renewed angina, septic ear, nose, and throat complications and kidney infection or rheumatic fever and is seen around the eighteenth day of untreated scarlet fever.
The rash is the most striking sign of scarlet fever. It usually begins looking like a bad sunburn with tiny bumps, and it may itch. The rash usually appears first on the neck and face, often leaving a clear unaffected area around the mouth. It spreads to the chest and back, then to the rest of the body. In body creases, especially around the underarms and elbows, the rash forms classic red streaks (on very dark skin, the streaks may appear darker than the rest of the skin). Areas of rash usually turn white (or paler brown, with dark complected skin) when pressed on. By the sixth day of the infection, the rash usually fades, but the affected skin may begin to peel. Usually there are other symptoms that help to confirm a diagnosis of scarlet fever, including a reddened sore throat, a fever at or above 101 °F (38.3 °C), and swollen glands in the neck. Scarlet fever can also occur with a low fever. The tonsils and back of the throat may be covered with a whitish coating, or appear red, swollen, and dotted with whitish or yellowish specks of pus. Early in the infection, the tongue may have a whitish or yellowish coating. Also, an infected person may have chills, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
When scarlet fever occurs because of a throat infection, the fever typically stops within 3 to 5 days, and the sore throat passes soon afterward. The scarlet fever rash usually fades on the sixth day after sore throat symptoms started, and begins to peel (as above). The infection itself is usually cured with a 10-day course of antibiotics, but it may take a few weeks for tonsils and swollen glands to return to normal.
In rare cases, scarlet fever may develop from a streptococcal skin infection like impetigo. In these cases, the person may not get a sore throat.
Other than the occurrence of the diarrhea, the treatment and course of scarlet fever are no different from those of any strep throat. In case of penicillin allergy, clindamycin or erythromycin can be used with success. Patients should no longer be infectious after taking antibiotics for 24 hours. People who have been exposed to scarlet fever should be watched carefully for a full week for symptoms, especially if aged 3 to young adult. It is very important to be tested (throat culture) and if positive, seek treatment.
A drug-resistant strain of scarlet fever has emerged in Hong Kong, accounting for at least two deaths in that city – the first such in over a decade. The mutant strain of the bacterium is about 60% resistant to the antibiotics, says Professor Kwok-yung Yuen, head of Hong Kong University’s microbiology department. This is compared to a previous strain of the disease, which demonstrated a 10-30% resistance. This new strain may have spread to neighboring Macau and mainland China.
With proper antibiotic treatment, the symptoms of scarlet fever should get better quickly. However, the rash can last for up to 2 – 3 weeks before it fully goes away.
Bacteria are spread by direct contact with infected people, or by droplets exhaled by an infected person. Avoid contact with infected people.
Children should be taught to practice the following healthy habits:
*Wash hands. Show your child how to wash his or her hands thoroughly with warm soapy water.
*Don’t share dining utensils or food. As a general rule, your child shouldn’t share drinking glasses or eating utensils with friends or classmates. And that rule applies to food, too.
*Cover your mouth and nose. Tell your child to cover his or her mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing to prevent the potential spread of germs.If your child has scarlet fever, wash his or her drinking glasses, utensils and, if possible, toys in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.
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