Scarlet fever is a exotoxin mediated disease caused by Group A streptococcal infection that occurs most often in association with a sore throat and rarely with impetigo or other streptococcal infections. more...
It is characterized by sore throat, fever and a rash over the upper body that may spread to cover almost the entire body. Scarlet fever is not Rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is the autoimmune disease that occurs after infection with Group A strep that causes damage to your heart valves.
This disease was also once known as Scarlatina. Many novels depicting life prior to the nineteenth century (see Scarlet Fever in literature below) describe scarlet fever as an acute disease being followed by many months spent in convalescence. The convalesence was probably due to complications with rheumatic fever. It was also not uncommon to destroy or burn the personal affects of a person afflicted with scarlet fever to prevent transmission to other people.
It is to this effect that people once greatly feared this disease. It killed many thousands of people, which is why, today, many people especially of the older generation still fear this disease, even though it is fairly easy to treat with modern antibiotics.
Scarlet fever in literature
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868) - Beth contracts Scarlet Fever and after a long convalesence, succumbs to the illness.
- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (1922) - The main protagonist, a small boy, contracts scarlet fever and his toys are all burned.
Signs and Symptoms
The disease is typically preceded by:
- sore throat.
- There is a characteristic rash:
- fine, red, rough-textured and blanches upon pressure
- appears 12-48 hours after the fever
- generally starts on the chest, axilla (armpits), and behind the ears
- worse in the skin folds
- Pastia lines (small linear petechiae) appear and persist after the rash is gone
- Scarlet fever also produces a bright red tongue with a "strawberry" appearance.
- The area around the mouth is usually pale (circumoral pallor)
- After about a week, the skin often desquamates or peels, usually in the groin, axilla, and on tips of fingers and toes
The illness is spread by the same means as strep throat.
Other than the occurrence of the rash, the treatment and course of scarlet fever are no different from those of any strep throat.
Antibiotic treatment is necessary to prevent rheumatic fever.
- eMedicine (emerg/518)
- MedlinePlus Encylopedia 000974
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