In olden days, scarlet fever would rip through towns killing children. (In fiction, it killed one out of four 작은 여자 and threatened at least one velveteen rabbit owner.) This disease has never gone away, but now it’s on the upswing in Asia and the United Kingdom.
Cases of scarlet fever tripled in England in 2014 and are now at a 50-year high, according to research published in Lancet Infectious Diseases. This surge follows a severe spike in scarlet fever cases in South Korea, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong.
Theresa Lamagni, lead author of the study, told STAT that her team quantified the trend but has no idea of the cause. “We’re left thinking what on earth it could be. We don’t have an answer at the moment.”
Possible reasons are antibiotic resistance, or a trend among the bacteria to produce the scarlet fever toxin more often than they used to, just for funsies.
How do people get scarlet fever?
Scarlet fever actually comes from the same kind of bacteria that causes strep throat: Streptococcus pyogenes. Impetigo, a contagious rash that strikes young children, is also caused by the same germ.
The main symptoms of scarlet fever are a fever (duh), sometimes strep throat, and a characteristic scarlet rash with a sandpapery texture that starts on the neck and spreads downward. Like strep throat, it spreads through coughs and sneezes.
Can we blame this on anti-vaxxers?
Sorry, no. There is no vaccine for scarlet fever. (One was developed long ago, but it didn’t work very well. It has since been abandoned, because the disease can be cured by antibiotics.)
Is scarlet fever increasing in the US, too?
Not that we know of. Doctors don’t have to report cases of scarlet fever to the CDC, so we don’t have data on how many cases there have been. So far, though, nobody has noted an uptick in the US.
Is scarlet fever deadly?
Without treatment, it can be. Back in the days of the velveteen rabbit, the disease could be fatal in 30 percent of cases.
Today, though, we have antibiotics. If you think your child has scarlet fever (or if, after reading this, you’re convinced that that zit on your neck is the start of a sandpapery scarlet rash), call the doctor.