One of the leading causes of child deaths in Victorian times is currently back on the rise in the U.K., and while the condition is now treatable and therefore no longer fatal, medics are completely stumped as to what has caused this sudden outbreak.
Scarlet fever, which is caused by toxins released by a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes, typically affects young children who have not yet built up a natural immunity to these toxins. Responsible for large numbers of deaths in centuries gone by, the condition has become much less prominent of late, although the number of cases has skyrocketed from 2,830 in the six months between September 2013 and March 2014 to 6,100 over the same period in 2015/16.
According to The Independent, 600 new cases are currently being reported each week, with infection rates now at a 50-year high.
Highly contagious, the infection can easily spread among children under the age of 10 who are in close contact with one another, such as those in the same class at school or nursery. Symptoms often include a red rash that begins on the chest and stomach before spreading to other areas, as well as a swollen tongue, sore throat, headache and high temperature.
Though there is no vaccine, the illness can be treated with standard antibiotics such as penicillin, which normally have to be taken for around 10 days in order to make a full recovery.
If left untreated, however, it can lead to complications resulting in pneumonia or other potentially life-threatening conditions, which is why parents are being urged to remain vigilant and keep an eye out for the development of symptoms in their children. If any of these are spotted, it is vital to see a doctor at the first available opportunity.