Public Health England (PHE) has reported a continued increase in cases of scarlet fever across England with 1319 new cases between 21 to 27 March, the highest weekly total recorded in recent decades (data available from 1982 onwards). A total of 10,570 cases of scarlet fever have now been reported since the season began in September 2015. Scarlet fever is a seasonal illness which should be treated with antibiotics and cases of the illness usually peak at this time of year. An increase in invasive disease caused by the same bacterium group A streptococcus (GAS) which causes scarlet fever has also been seen in England. A total of 593 cases of invasive GAS infection, such and bloodstream infection or pneumonia, have been notified so far for 2016 compared to 440 cases for the same period last year (January to March). This year GAS seasonal activity coincides with the seasonal influenza activity owing to the late flu season. Influenza and invasive GAS co-infection is a rare but well-recognised occurrence. Whilst the elderly remain most at risk of invasive GAS infection, increased levels of disease compared to last year have been seen in young adults and children less than 5 years old, the age groups most affected by influenza in recent weeks. There’s no suggestion of an increase in invasive GAS infection in patients diagnosed with scarlet fever. This is the third season in a row in which elevated scarlet fever activity has been noted. A total of 15,637 notifications were made in England and Wales in 2014, rising to 17,590 in 2015. Weekly activity so far this season has been similar or slightly above for that last year.
Recent headlines about US college mumps outbreaks appear to herald the start to a busy year for the disease and underscore the ongoing challenges that campuses face. While mumps hit a low point of 229 cases in 2011, in the past 2 years, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recorded more than 1,000 cases annually. In updating its numbers yesterday, the CDC said that, as of Apr 1, public health departments have reported 467 mumps cases already this year. Although mumps cases have seen a sharp decline since the CDC began recommending a two-dose vaccine prevention plan in 1988, outbreaks are still prevalent, particularly in high-contact social settings like college campuses. Mumps is transmittable through the air or by touching unwashed, contaminated surfaces, and the rising cases bring into question vaccination practices, waning immunity, and college healthcare.