What is scarlet fever and how is it transmitted?

Scarlet fever is an infectious disease that is associated with the past, but it has not disappeared anywhere. In addition, there are indications that rises. “There has been growth for about a decade in Europe, in many parts of Asia such as China, and also in the United States,” says Raul Rivas. Raul RivasProfessor of Microbiology at the University of Salamanca.

As a result of the pandemic, there was Pause in connection with preventive measures against coronavirus, but, according to Christina CalvoPresident of the Spanish Society of Pediatric Infectology (SEIP), “Last year we saw a very significant increase in the number of cases across Europe and also in Spain.Perhaps because after the pandemic and isolation there has been no social contact and there are many children and susceptible people who have not been vaccinated against various bacteria and viruses, as was the case in previous years. The expert believes that “this year it is too early to talk about how the disease will develop,” outbreaks of which are periodically recorded in kindergartens and other centers where numerous people live in close contact.

What is the cause of scarlet fever?

The bacterium that causes scarlet fever is group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus (or Streptococcus pyogenes), What Transmitted from person to person through the respiratory route.. This bacterium has been known “for many years and is one of the bacteria that most often causes infections in pediatric patients,” Calvo emphasizes. In particular, “it is bacteria that most often cause sore throat (pharyngotonsillitis).”

Rivas says that Group A streptococci “can cause different types of pathologies”, which will depend on whether an invasive or non-invasive infection has occurred. “Scarlet fever is one of the consequences of a non-invasive infection resulting from toxins produced by bacteria.”

These bacteria have about 200 different serotypes, but 10 of them are “particularly predominant in invasive and non-invasive streptococcal infections,” Rivas emphasizes.

What are the most characteristic symptoms?

Here are the main symptoms of scarlet fever:

  • Heat.
  • Sore throat.
  • Tonsillitis.
  • ganglia (adenopathies in the neck area).
  • Skin rash which affects mainly the face, trunk and forearms, is scratched to the touch and leaves the part of the face around the mouth free. This occurs one or two days after the onset of the disease. “This is also very common in the folds (curls of the arms),” says the pediatrician.
  • In a few days the skin is peeling.
  • Red tongue (strawberry or raspberry) and sometimes with a coating (whitish).

How is it transmitted and why does it affect children more?

Bacteria that causes scarlet fever It is transmitted through direct contact with saliva and nasal secretions, through airborne droplets. and touching contaminated surfaces and then putting your hand in your mouth. “This is why transmission of the virus occurs so easily in day care centers and schools, but also in nursing homes or even in hospitals or military installations,” Rivas says. What they all have in common is that they are places “where significant numbers of people live together and have very close contact.”

“Group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus infections are common in school-aged children, although they can be seen at other ages,” Calvo confirms. “The most common thing is that from 4 to 15 years

Treatment of scarlet fever

Scarlet fever caused by bacteria Treated with antibiotics (penicillin or amoxicillin).. “This bacterium is very sensitive to antibiotics commonly used in childhood,” Calvo says, adding that it is generally a mild illness. “These bacteria can cause serious illnesses such as pneumonia or bone infections, but their symptoms are different from scarlet fever.”

The pediatrician emphasizes that the diagnosis “can be made by a pediatrician in a simple and understandable way.” using a rapid test for streptococcus, which is available in many centers today.” In this sense, he warns that “treatment should not be carried out without a correct diagnosis”, since there are many other childhood diseases that cause hives on the skin, which are viral in nature and therefore cannot be treated with antibiotics. Finally, he points out that if a child is “correctly diagnosed and treated and does not get better or worse, it is always necessary to consult again.”

Measures to prevent this infection

The best preventive measure is the same as for other infectious diseases transmitted by the respiratory route: do not contact sick people. “For practical purposes, children diagnosed with scarlet fever They should not go to school until at least 24 to 48 hours have passed since starting treatment. and they no longer have a fever,” Calvo says. After this time, the risk of infection is minimal.

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