Originally Published: February 7, 2003 3 p.m.
PRESCOTT – Yavapai County Health Department officials, as they follow up on six suspected cases of scarlet fever at Mayer Elementary School, are encouraging parents to watch for signs of illness.
Officials stress that "there is no reason for alarm," according to a recent news release.
Scarlet fever is a disease resulting from the same bacteria that causes group A streptococcal infection or "strep throat."
Though not common, scarlet fever can develop from strep throat.
"Most people with group A strep infections do not develop scarlet fever," said Marcia Jacobson, director of the Yavapai County Health Department.
Scarlet fever is commonly characterized by a sore throat, fever and a reddish skin rash. The rash may resemble a sunburn with tiny bumps that itch.
Often, the rash first appears on the neck and face and spreads to the chest, back and then onto the rest of the body.
Scarlet fever is rarely serious or fatal when treated with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, scarlet fever may lead to kidney disease or rheumatic fever, which can cause permanent heart damage or, in very rare cases, death.
Because strep infection is fairly common and easily treatable, physicians and laboratories are not required to report cases to the Health Department.
"We would encourage all people with any potentially contagious illness to observe good hygiene practices, including frequent hand-washing, covering their mouth when they cough, staying away from other people when they feel ill, and seeing their family doctor for evaluation and treatment," Jacobson said.
People with a sore throat and fever should not attend school, work or visit public places until after seeing a physician.
If a physician prescribes antibiotics, the patient may return to normal activities, after 24 hours, and is not considered contagious – the rash and sore throat may still continue while taking medication.
SCARLET FEVER FACTS
• Strep throat and scarlet fever are different forms of a bacterial disease caused by group A streptococci.
• Streptococci can produce a toxin that results in a distinctive skin rash – when this happens the illness is called scarlet fever.
• Symptoms usually begin one to three days after exposure to group A streptococcal bacterial.
• Individuals can get strep throat/scarlet fever by close contact with persons infected with the bacteria. Occasionally, both strep and scarlet fever are transmitted indirectly by contact with objects used by an infected person or contaminated hands.
• Group A streptococci have also been associated with food-borne outbreaks.
• Symptoms include fever and an inflamed, painful throat with swelling of the tonsils. Patients with scarlet fever may have all of the symptoms of strep throat plus a fine, red rash.
• The rash commonly appears on the neck, chest, armpits, elbows, groin and inner surfaces of the thighs.
• In severe cases of scarlet fever, "strawberry tongue," vomiting and high fever may also be present.
• Physicians can treat strep throat and scarlet fever with prescribed antibiotics.
• If left untreated, or only partially treated, strep infection may occasionally lead to rheumatic fever or kidney disease.
• Untreated individuals can transmit the bacteria for several weeks.
• People infected with strep throat may return to school or work after the second day of a 10-day course of antibiotic therapy.
• Avoid close contact with infected persons until they have completed at least two days of a 10-day course of antibiotic therapy.
• Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat any products made from raw milk.