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Facts About...


What is it?

Scarlet fever usually starts as “strep throat”. The Streptococcus A or “strep” bacteria causes a fever, sore throat and swollen, tender glands in the neck. Sometimes the bacteria produce a toxin that causes a rash. This infection is more common in children than adults. Without careful diagnosis and treatment, strep throat and scarlet fever can lead to potentially serious complications.

How is it spread?

“Strep” throat is spread from person to person through saliva or sneezing/coughing of an infected person.

What do I look for?

A red rash will appear all over the body on the neck, chest, armpit, elbow, groin and inner thigh area. It looks like a sunburn and feels like sandpaper. Usually there is no rash on the face, but the cheeks are flushed and the area around the mouth is pale. The tongue is often bright red and pitted like a strawberry. People with severe disease will have high fever, nausea and vomiting.

When the person begins to feel better, the skin on the tips of the fingers and toes will come off. Sometimes the skin will peel from the trunk and limbs.

How is it treated?

See your doctor if you have a sore throat, fever and swollen neck glands. The doctor can treat “strep” throat with antibiotics. People with strep throat/scarlet fever should stay home until 24 hours after treatment has been started, to limit the spread of the disease.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitizers when hands are not visibly dirty.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow and encourage others to do the same.
  • Wash your hands after handling nose and throat discharges (i.e., after disposal of facial tissues containing nose and throat discharges).
  • Wash articles soiled with nose and throat discharges, including toys, in hot, soapy water.
  • Do not share water bottles, straws, eating utensils, cigarettes, toothbrushes, toys or anything else that has been in contact with saliva, nose or throat secretions.
  • If you are ill, stay at home and isolate yourself from others.

February 2015