Strain of scarlet fever concerning
PAMELA GLINSKIA childhood disease that was common up until the early twentieth century, scarlet fever could manifest itself in high fevers, widespread rash and peeling skin. As the use of penicillin and other antibiotics became more widespread, the ailment seemed to be almost eradicated in developed countries.
Published: October 6, 2012
Published: October 6, 2012
Now, a 2011 outbreak in Asia has people questioning whether a mutated version of this disease may be making a comeback.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning last year to travelers going to Hong Kong, Macau and China because of an unusually high number of scarlet fever cases, scientists started looking for a possible cause.
The head of the microbiology department at Hong Kong University, Yuen Kwok-Yung, stated that the new strains of scarlet fever, which had killed two young people in Hong Kong and infected almost 22,000 in Asia, were drug-resistant and difficult to treat.
There is concern that one of those strains may have mutated again.
Scarlet fever, also known as scarlatina, is a streptococcal bacteria that forms a toxin that causes the rough, bumpy red rash associated with the ailment. It may develop as a secondary infection after having chicken pox or as a complication of a strep throat infection.
While the World Health Organization stated there were only 24 deaths throughout 15 countries attributed to scarlet fever in 2004, the recent outbreak has raised concerns about the overuse of antibiotics and what that is doing to our ability to effectively treat this and other bacterial diseases.
"While flesh-eating infections caused by the group A streptococcus may grab more headlines today, one hundred and fifty years ago the best known and most dreaded form of streptococcal infection was scarlet fever," said microbiologist and infectious disease epidemiologist Tara C. Smith in an article posted on scienceblogs.com.
Historically, epidemics of scarlet fever in urban areas in Victorian-era Europe and the United States often had highly fatal results. Between 1840 and 1883, the mortality rate, in some cities, was over 30 percent. By the middle of the 20th century, only about 1 percent of people who contracted this highly contagious disease died.
Scarlet fever spreads in places where children are in close proximity, like schools and day-care centers. The germ that causes scarlet fever is carried in secretions from the nose and mouth and is often spread by airborne spray or by touching someone that is ill. Because of that, the CDC said, "The best way to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands often and avoid sharing eating utensils."
Symptoms are sore throat, high fever, a coarse rash, swollen glands and a bright red tongue that resembles a strawberry. Other symptoms could include chills, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, headaches and achiness.
The rash often begins on the chest, neck or stomach and then spreads all over the body. It usually starts to fade around the sixth day but could last longer. Some skin may peel after the rash disappears.
If symptoms do occur, your physician may want to do a throat culture or throat swab to test for group A strep to determine the most effective course of treatment.