Outbreaks of scarlet fever are appearing in Europe and Asia ... and could be making their way to the United States.
Scarlet fever has suddenly emerged in Asia and Europe in new outbreaks.
In the last five years, researchers have been tracking some outbreaks of the disease and have discovered that they have become somewhat drug resistant — and they’re not sure why it’s back, according to a UPI report.
Also known as Group A Streptococcus (GAS), scarlet fever causes strep throat as well as symptoms like fever, sore throat, abdominal pain, swollen tongue, chills, and the ugly red rash for which it is named. It mostly affects children, although adults can get it too.
A total of 100,000 cases have been reported since 2011 in China, and 5,000 in Hong Kong, representing a tenfold increase, according to the report. There have also been 12,000 cases reported in the United Kingdom.
Dr. Nouri Ben Zakour, who is a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia focusing on chemistry and molecular biosciences, said in a statement: “We now have a situation which may change the nature of the disease and make it resistant to broad-spectrum treatments normally prescribed for respiratory tract infections, such as in scarlet fever. … With this heightened awareness, we can now swiftly identify scarlet fever-associated bacteria and antibiotic resistance elements, and track the spread of scarlet fever-causing GAS strains.”
The researchers tracked 34 different GAS strains in China and Hong Kong and noticed genetic changes in them, including some that made them drug resistant.
Scarlet fever was a major problem for children in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but it faded in the latter half of the 20th century.
Penicillin is generally used to treat the disease, as well as other antibiotics like erythromycin and tetracycline.