Scarlet fever is one of those illness that I thought modern medicine had virtually eradicated.
However, the truth is that scarlet fever, once a major cause of death, is still around, but is usually quite effectively treated with antibiotics. Generally a childhood disease, scarlet fever is caused by toxins released by a bacteria called group A Streptococcus or “group A strep”, the same bacteria that causes strep throat.
Outbreak in Asia.
Over 400 cases of scarlet fever have been identified in Hong Kong in the last few weeks, with new cases being reported at about 25 a day. Two deaths of young children have been attributed to the disease, a seven year old girl in May and a five year old boy in June. Nearly all of the infections have been in children under the age of ten with most occurring in clusters in schools and child care centers.
Scarlet fever occurs every year in Hong Kong, but at much lower numbers.
A genetic mutation may be the cause of the outbreak. If so, it may be more difficult to control. Dr. Samson Wong Sai-yin, a University of Hong Kong assistant professor and medical microbiologist, told Hong Kong’s English daily, The Standard, “”It is the first time we have seen this kind of mutation in that particular type of Streptococcus.”
Besides Hong Kong, the disease is spreading through nearby regions of China and Macau.