Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever.  You might be expecting this post to be about a Jane Austen novel or a trip we recently made to an old historical hospital here in England, but you are wrong.  I wrote “Scarlet fever” because this post is actually about present day happenings here in England.  There has been an outbreak of scarlet fever at the girl’s small primary school.  Nine confirmed cases since Monday in a school with a total enrollment of 63 students.  That’s a lot.  And when Ellie came home from school on Tuesday, she said other students were dropping like flies throughout the day.  Her good friend left in the middle of the day with a sore throat, one of the first symptoms of scarlet fever.  She overheard the teachers talking - they had discovered a rash on a little boy’s neck – one of the telltale signs of scarlet fever.  He left too.  Along with a few other students.  Several other kids didn’t even make it to school.  It appears we have a small epidemic here in our little town.

What is scarlet fever?  That’s what I asked when we got the first text on Monday saying there had been a confirmed case of it in school.  First of all, in today’s modern day medical world, scarlet fever is not something to fear as it once was.  It’s related to the strep infection and is easily treatable with antibiotics, and most cases today are milder than those from past history.  The name is a pretty good indicator of the symptoms.  ‘Scarlet’ – it causes a widespread, fine pink to red rash that feels like sandpaper to the touch and it itchy.  Usually, it’s accompanied by a high temperature, hence the word ‘fever’ in the name.  And because it’s in the strep family, it can cause a sore throat as well.  But the big problem with scarlet fever is that is it highly contagious.  Not only can it be past on through coughing and sneezing, but you can also get it simply by touching the skin of a person who has it.  Now picture a small school with all the kids packed into three classrooms, running around the playground together three times a day, and where the entire school meets together in one big room for assembly each morning.  It’s like a big, fat germ fest.

On Monday when I received the text that there was a confirmed case of scarlet fever in the school I thought, “What the heck?  We can still get scarlet fever?  That’s still a disease?”  Call me naïve, but I had no idea what is really was.  Both girls came home from school that day with a two page letter about it.  Right before bedtime, I noticed Leah itching her neck.  I took a look.  Yikes – a red rash wrapped all the way around her neck and onto her shoulders.  Here we go.   The odd thing was that she had no other symptoms and from the research I did on the Internet, you should really have other symptoms besides the rash to truly have scarlet fever.  Can you really have scarlet fever is you don’t have the fever? 

Tuesday morning, she still had the rash but no other symptoms and it hadn’t spread like I had also read it should.  But I was in a bit of a pickle.  She was perfectly healthy, but I would have promptly gotten a call had I sent her to school with a rash on her neck.  So she had a free day pass from school and stayed home and played all day.  Late in the day we received another text from school – eight more confirmed cases of scarlet fever and the disco that was scheduled for after school on Thursday (a dance for the kids to just have fun at sponsored by the PTO) was canceled because of the outbreak. 

Wednesday morning (today) she still has the rash but no other symptoms.  I finally decided to call a doctor.  I can’t send her to school again today for the same reason listed above, so I decided to take her to see the doc and see what he/she says.  If she doesn’t have it, I’m hoping they’ll give me a note saying such so she can go back to school tomorrow.  If she does, she must have the mildest case you can possibly get so do I really want to give her antibiotics if it will clear up on it’s own in a few days?  We’ll see.  I’ll keep you posted. 

Incidentally, the school is on break next week.  What timing!  I bet the school officials are wishing they had planned break a week earlier this year.  Not having 63 kids together in close quarters this week would have been great!

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