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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Mum’s scarlet fever warning after daughter Sophie suffers

A WHITEHAVEN mother is warning other parents to be vigilant after her daughter fell ill with the “uncommon’’ childhood disease, scarlet fever.

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pioneering role: Sgt Sophie Hobson with the RAF Hercules

Corrie Lewthwaite’s four-year-old daughter, Sophie, contracted the highly infectious illness, but it was days before the disease was identified.

“I am concerned because I know Sophie won’t be the only one,’’ Corrie, of Esk Avenue, said. “People these days presume scarlet fever is as extinct as the dinosaurs, but it is very real and I’ve had one poorly little girl because of it.’’

Over the past five months there have been 29 reported cases of scarlet fever in Cumbria. The illness usually affects children under 10 years.

There have also been calls for people to be aware of cases of ‘slapped cheek syndrome’ in the county, which is a usually a very mild condition but which has a distinctive bright red rash on the cheeks.

Corrie said: “I would hate to think that a child had gone untreated because someone had made the mistake of thinking their child had ‘slapped cheek syndrome’ when in fact it was scarlet fever.

“Sophie was untreated for almost three days from the first sign, which was a temperature, until she complained her tongue was sore.

“After looking at her tongue I looked at pictures online, then rang the Cuedoc explained her symptoms. I was given an appointment within two hours of ringing and when Sophie was examined they looked in her mouth and knew right away it was scarlet fever. She was immediately started on penicillin.’’ Sophie is now recovering at home.

A Cumbria County Council public health spokesperson said: “Scarlet fever used to be a very serious disease, but most cases today are mild. This is because scarlet fever can easily be treated with antibiotic tablets.

“You should see your GP as soon as possible if you suspect you or your child has scarlet fever.”

Scarlet fever often starts with a sore throat, headache and a high temperature with a rash developing 12 to 48 hours later. Red blotches are the first sign of the rash. These turn into a fine pink-red rash that feels like sandpaper to touch and looks like sunburn.

The rash usually starts in one place, but soon spreads to other parts of the body. It commonly affects the ears, neck, chest, elbows, inner thighs and groin, and may be itchy. Unlike slapped cheek syndrome, the scarlet fever rash does not normally spread to the face.

“The rash usually fades after about a week,’’ the spokesperson said, “but the outer layers of skin, usually on the hands and feet, may peel for several weeks afterwards. In milder cases, sometimes called scarlatina, the rash may be the only symptom.

“Your GP can usually diagnose scarlet fever by looking at the characteristic rash and other symptoms, although a sample of saliva will need to be taken from the back of the throat (throat swab) and tested in a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis.

“There’s no evidence that catching scarlet fever when pregnant will put your baby at risk.

“However, heavily pregnant women should tell healthcare staff if they have been in contact with someone who has scarlet fever.

“If your child has scarlet fever, do not let them go to school and keep them away from other people until they have been on a course of antibiotics for at least 24 hours.

“All tissues and cloths that someone with scarlet fever has coughed or sneezed into should be washed or disposed of immediately.”

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