Scarlet fever results from an infection with Streptococcus pyogenes or group A beta haemolytic streptococci that produces an erythrogenic toxin (1,2).
Group A beta haemolytic streptococci is commonly found on the skin or in the throat and is responsible for causing bacterial sore throat or “strep throat” (1,2). It may also cause:
- necrotizing fasciitis
- streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (2).
Scarlet fever is primarily a childhood disease and is commonly seen in children between the ages of two and eight years (1).
It is a highly contagious infection. Transmission occurs when bacteria (present in an infected person’s saliva or mucous)
- is spread by aerosol - sneezing, coughing, or breathing out
- comes into direct contact with an uninfected person (1)
Although scarlet fever is seen after streptococcal sore throat in a majority of the patients, it may also occur following burns or an infected wound (2).
Invasive group A streptococcal disease and scarlet fever are notifiable disease under the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010 (3).
This disease has an incubation period of two to four days (2).A milder form of scarlet fever is described by some clinicians as “scarlatina” although others consider this to be a synonym for scarlet fever (2)
- (1) Health Protection Agency (HPA) 2010. General information – Scarlet fever
- (2) Marshall S. Scarlet fever : the disease in the UK. The pharmaceutical journal 2006;277
- (3) Health Protection Agency (HPA) 2010. List of notifiable diseases
Last reviewed 03/2022