Scarlet Fever (cont.)

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Can scarlet fever be prevented?

Scarlet fever is spread through (1) droplets expelled during coughing or (2) coming into contact with hands or items contaminated with GAS. To reduce the risk of contagion, the mouth should be covered with an arm or sleeve when coughing. Frequent hand washing is recommended, and eating utensils should not be shared with an infected person. Early treatment of strep throat may reduce the risk of progression to scarlet fever. Infected people should not go to school or work until 24 hours after starting antibiotics. Rarely, scarlet fever can occur when GAS infects a wound. Keeping wounds clean and dry will reduce the risk of infection.

What is the prognosis for scarlet fever?

Most cases of scarlet fever respond well to antibiotics and resolve completely. Rarely, complications may occur. Complications include acute rheumatic fever, sepsis, abscess, or spread of the infection to other areas. Sepsis is caused when the bacteria enters the bloodstream. Sepsis is a serious condition and may cause a patient to go into shock. If the bacteria invade local tissues, they may form pockets of pus (abscesses), especially in the back of the throat or around the tonsils. Extension to the sinuses or ear (otitis media) may occur. Uncommonly, the bacteria may invade the central nervous system causing meningitis or brain abscesses.

There have been many attempts to create a vaccine to protect against scarlet fever, but none have been successful.

Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease
Radikas, R., and C. Connolly. "Young Patients in a Young Nation: Scarlet Fever in Early Nineteenth Century Rural New England." Pediatr Nurs. 33.1 Jan.-Feb. 2007: 53-55.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Scarlet Fever." Apr. 13, 2008. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/20/2013

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