More than 60 outbreaks of scarlet fever have been reported over a fortnight in East Anglia, as national notifications reach their highest level since records began.

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Public Health England (PHE) has reported a “continued significant increase” in scarlet fever notifications across the country, with 883 new cases in the last week of March – the highest weekly total since 1982.

In the Anglia and Essex region alone, 61 new cases were recorded over the final fortnight of the month – almost six times the normal rate.

Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said: “We are continuing to see increases in scarlet fever notifications across England and we are working closely with healthcare professionals to try and understand the reasons behind these increased and do our best to reduce the impact of this infection.

“PHE urges people with symptoms of scarlet fever, which include a sore throat, headache and fever accompanied by a characteristic rash to consult their GP. Once children or adults are diagnosed with scarlet fever we strongly advise them to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection.”

The recent surge in outbreaks follows a season of unusually high scarlet fever activity in East Anglia. There were 241 outbreaks of the disease in the Anglia and Essex region between September and March compared with just 140 over the same period the previous year.

Most cases of scarlet fever are mild and will be resolved within a week, however PHE recommends “continued vigilance” by health care professionals due to “uncommon but possible” complications.

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