Northern Ireland

Scarlet fever: Sharp rise in cases since Christmas

There has been a sharp rise in the number of scarlet fever cases reported in Northern Ireland since Christmas.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) said there were 82 cases in the first eight weeks of 2014, compared to 50 in the same period in 2013.

There was also a rise to 199 cases reported overall last year, compared to 130 cases in 2011.

The childhood disease causes a high temperature and a red rash, but can be treated with antibiotics.

Other symptoms can include sore throat, headache, swollen neck glands, peeling skin on fingertips and toes and a white coating on the tongue.

Cases are reported to the PHA on the basis of clinical suspicion and do not have to be confirmed in a laboratory.

However, there has been no increase in cases of the more severe form of the disease in Northern Ireland.

In areas of England, there has also been a rise in the number of scarlet fever cases since Christmas.

Parents and staff at nurseries in some areas have been sent letters advising them on how to spot the warning signs.