Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scarlet fever epidemic in South China

Hong Kong was hit by a scarlet fever epidemic, with 400 people infected resulting in two deaths, both of children, a 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy. Mainland China and Macau are also suffering from unusually high numbers of scarlet fever cases and is believed to be a regional phenomenon.
Caused by group A streptococcus bacteria and mostly affects children below the age of 10, scarlet fever is spread through contact with contaminated respiratory secretions. It is similar to a strep throat, only accompanied by a rash. Symptoms include a high fever, a sore throat with difficulty in swallowing, white or yellow spots on the throat and tonsils, and swollen lymph nodes on the neck.
According to reports, the scarlet fever now occurring in Hong Kong and southern China is a mutated form of the disease, resistant tosome extent to the standard anti biotic procedure because of the change in the genetic structure of the scarlet fever bacteria isolated from a six-year old boy which may have enhanced its ability to spread.
The epidemic is said to be already about four times the number of victims as there was during the previous year's outbreak. This suggests that the scarlet fever outbreak is going to be long lasting and wide spread. It is still unknown at this time whether the disease will spread beyond China.