Public Health England (PHE) is advising doctors to be on alert in light of exceptionally high rates of scarlet fever and invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) disease.
The latest PHE Health Protection Report shows that the total number of notifications for scarlet fever so far this year has reached 20,372, more than double the average for this point since the upsurge began in 2013/14.
Although there has been a decline in notifications in recent weeks, reported cases remain higher than the same period in the last 4 years. PHE says this may indicate that the peak of the season has passed but it could also reflect a delay in primary care access or reporting over the Easter bank holidays.
All regions have reported higher rates compared with the same point last season, with the North East, South East, North West, Yorkshire & the Humber and South West reporting rates more than twice as high.
From week 37 to week 13 2017/18 there have been 1574 laboratory notifications of iGAS disease reported through routine laboratory surveillance in England. This represents a 73% increase on the average rate for the previous 5 years. The highest rates were reported in the Yorkshire & Humber region, followed by the North East, East Midlands and North West regions.
PHE said the number of cases reported during 2018 is a concern, with weekly reports approaching 100 during February and March. It is advising healthcare professionals, particularly GPs and microbiologists, to be on alert for cases of scarlet fever and to maintain a high level of suspicion for iGAS in relevant patients.