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Group A Streptococcal Infections - Scarlet Fever

Group A streptococcal infections are caused by group A streptococcus, a bacterium responsible for a variety of health problems. These infections can range from mild skin infection or sore throat to invasive, life-threatening conditions such as toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis. Most people are familiar with strep throat, which along with minor skin infection, is the most common form of the disease. Experts estimate that more than 10 million mild infections like these occur every year.

In addition to strep throat and superficial skin infections, group A strep bacteria can cause infections in tissues at specific body sites, including lungs, bones, spinal cord, and the abdominal cavity.

What is scarlet fever?
Scarlet fever is another form of group A streptococcal disease that can follow strep throat. It is usually self-limited.

What are the symptoms of scarlet fever?
In addition to the symptoms of strep throat, a red rash appears on the sides of the chest and the abdomen. It may spread to cover most of the body. This rash appears as tiny, red pinpoints and has a rough texture like sandpaper. When pressed on, the rash loses color or turns white. There may also be dark red lines in the folds of skin. People with scarlet fever may get a bright strawberry-red tongue, and their faces are flushed while the area around the mouth remains pale. The skin often peels after recovery usually on tips of fingers and toes. In severe cases, a patient may have a high fever, nausea and vomiting.

How does a person get scarlet fever?
A person can get scarlet fever the same way they get strep throat - through direct person-to- person contact with throat mucus, nasal discharge, and saliva of an infected person.

What is the treatment for scarlet fever?
Like strep throat, a doctor treats scarlet fever with antibiotics.

SOURCE: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
August 2000.



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Last Updated: Jun 3rd, 2009

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