Scarlet fever, a fever with a rash, is generally considered an antiquated disease, however, a new antibiotic resistant strain has appeared in Hong Kong and may have spread through China!
What Is Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever is a form of group a streptococcus, the same infection that causes strep throat. Children are most affected by scarlet fever, but teenagers are also at risk.
Beginning with a fever and a sore throat, toxins from the bacteria streptococcus release toxins that cause a red pallor, giving scarlet fever its name (the tongue may also turn bright red). The accompanying rash (starting on the neck) can spread over the body within a few days and last for weeks.
Two important facts for understanding what is scarlet fever: it’s incredibly contagious, symptoms can last for weeks. Complications of scarlet fever can cause the infection to spread, causing ear infections, sinus infections, or worse. Children can also die from scarlet fever.
Rheumatic fever can occur almost a month after strep throat or bout of scarlet fever. Rheumatic fever is inflammation that is notable for causing heart damage, but can also affect skin, joints, and other parts.
Hong Kong is notable as the place where the SARS outbreak started, and anyone travelling to Asia should be aware…even if you don’t become sick, as an adult you may be a carrier.
The problem with antibiotic resistant bacteria, or superbugs, is that especially when they are super contagious, like scarlet fever, they have a way of making their way into at risk communities (like whooping cough, pertussis, making its way into communities that don’t vaccinate).
If your child develops a fever and a rash, see a doctor, who can diagnose the rash as scarlet fever and take cultures. During the summer, when kids are out of school, risk of transmission of scarlet fever is likely to be lower. Still, given the rise and severity of antibiotic resistant bacteria, it can pay to be aware!
How do you feel about all the new superbugs? Did anyone have scarlet fever as a child? What was your experience like?