Strep A and Scarlet Fever Guidance
Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious. Therefore, look out for symptoms in children, which include a sore throat, headache, and fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel. On darker skin, the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will have a sandpapery feel.
Parents need to contact NHS 111 or their GP if they suspect their child has scarlet fever, because early treatment of scarlet fever with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection.
If it is confirmed that a child has scarlet fever, they should be kept at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others.
Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria called group A streptococci. These bacteria also cause other respiratory and skin infections such as strep throat and impetigo.
In very rare occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive Group A strep (iGAS). While still uncommon, there has been an increase in invasive Group A strep cases this year, particularly in children under 10.
What can schools do to prevent spread?
- Good hand and respiratory hygiene are important for stopping the spread of many bugs. By teaching children and role modelling how to wash their hands properly with soap for 20 seconds, using a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes, and keeping away from others when feeling unwell, they will be able to reduce the risk of picking up or spreading infections.
- In addition, consider your cleaning programme for common touch points and high use areas. You will be familiar with this through your work over COVID, which principles of prevention are similar.
- Be observant, rashes and illness can develop quickly, so all staff need to be vigilant to spot and respond to suspected cases. In any event, the parent needs to be notified and medical assistance accessed.
- Knowledge is key, try to build in opportunity to talk to all staff on the current issues and what action they can take in class and around school to help prevent spread. Simple actions such as encouraging children to wash hands, cover their mouth when they sneeze and routinely wiping handles all contribute to keeping your school a safe place.