scarlet fever

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
Related to scarlet fever: rheumatic fever

scarlet fever



an acute, communicable infection, caused by group A hemolytic streptococcal bacteria (see streptococcusstreptococcus
, any of a group of gram-positive bacteria, genus Streptococcus, some of which cause disease. Streptococci are spherical and divide by fission, but they remain attached and so grow in beadlike chains.
..... Click the link for more information.
) that produce an erythrogenic toxin. The disease is now uncommon, probably because antibiotic therapy has lessened the likelihood of spread. It occurs in young children, usually between two and eight years of age, and is spread by droplet spray from carriers and from individuals who have contracted the disease. The incubation period is from three to five days, and infectivity lasts about two weeks. Scarlet fever may be mild or severe, but it is rarely fatal if treated. Typical symptoms are sore throat, headache, fever, flushed face with a ring of pallor about the mouth, red spots in the mouth, coated tongue with raw beefy appearance and inflamed papillae underneath it (strawberry tongue), and a characteristic rough red rash on the skin. The streptococcal bacterium that causes scarlet fever is identical to the streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat) organism, the difference being the production of a toxin to which the patient is susceptible in the case of scarlet fever. Severe infections are occasionally complicated by rheumatic fever, kidney disease, ear infection, pneumonia, meningitis, or encephalitis. Mild scarlet fever requires only bed rest, antibiotics, analgesics or antipyretics, and symptomatic treatment. Antibiotics, immune serum, and antitoxin may be required for severe cases.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Scarlet fever

An acute contagious disease that results from infection with Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococci). It most often accompanies pharyngeal (throat) infections with this organism but is occasionally associated with wound infection or septicemia. Scarlet fever is characterized by the appearance, about 2 days after development of pharyngitis, of a red rash that blanches under pressure and has a sandpaper texture. Usually the rash appears first on the trunk and neck and spreads to the extremities. The rash fades after a week, with desquamation, or peeling, generally occurring during convalescence. The disease is usually self-limiting, although severe forms are occasionally seen with high fever and systemic toxicity. Appropriate antibiotic therapy is recommended to prevent the onset in susceptible individuals of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. See Medical bacteriology, Rheumatic fever, Streptococcus

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Scarlet Fever


an acute infectious disease occurring mainly in childhood and manifested by fever, sore throat, and a rash. The first clinical description of scarlet fever was given in the 17th century by T. Sydenham, who also gave the disease its name.

The causative agent of scarlet fever is a β-hemolytic streptococcus, which belongs to Group A and forms a toxin. The infection is transmitted by infected persons or by carriers. It is mainly airborne, but occasionally occurs through contact with an infected person’s belongings. Scarlet fever is mainly a disease of children up to the age of six or seven. Its incidence increases in the autumn and winter months, and periodic rises in incidence are noted every four to six years. Persons who have recovered from the disease develop specific immunity, with relapse occurring in 1.5–4 percent of the cases. Immunity is determined by observing the skin’s reaction to an inoculated toxin (the Dick test).

The incubation period of scarlet fever averages two to seven days. The onset of the disease is acute and is marked by fever, lethargy, malaise, vomiting, and sore throat. The mucosa of the throat becomes bright red, and spots sometimes appear on the palatine tonsils. The superficial cervical lymph nodes swell and become painful. On the first or occasionally the second day of the disease, a bright-pink or red punctate rash appears on the entire body. The tongue acquires a grayish white coating, which disappears by the fourth or fifth day of the disease; the tongue then becomes bright red and granular (raspberry tongue). The disease continues for three to six more days. After the rash disappears, large portions of the skin peel off.

Scarlet fever may be mild, moderately severe, or severe. The severe form may be toxic, with pronounced symptoms of toxic affection of the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

It may also be septic, with severe inflammation of the throat and a tendency to develop suppurative foci. When the severe form is toxicoseptic, both sets of symptoms are combined. The mild form of the disease predominates, and complications, which are observed in the severe form, seldom occur. Such complications include purulent cervical lymphadenitis, otitis, inflammation of the accessory cavities of the nose and joints, affection of the heart, nephritis, and sepsis. With modern methods of treatment, fatality has been reduced to tenths or hundredths of 1 percent. A very mild form of the disease, lacking in many of the symptoms, is often observed.

Scarlet fever is treated with antibiotics; the toxic form is treated with antitoxic scarlet-fever serum. Various therapeutic means are used to treat complications. Infected persons are isolated for at least ten days; with severe forms of the disease or when living conditions are unfavorable, children are hospitalized. Preschoolers and pupils in the first two grades are permitted to return to school 12 days after the end of the isolation period. Healthy children who have been in contact with infected persons are quarantined for seven days. The premises occupied by infected persons are subjected to regular disinfection.


Nosov, S. D. Detskie infektsionnye bolezni, 4th ed. Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

scarlet fever

[′skär·lət ′fē·vər]
An acute, contagious bacterial disease caused by Streptococcus hemolyticus; characterized by a papular, or rough, bright-red rash over the body, with fever, sore throat, headache, and vomiting occurring 2-3 days after contact with a carrier.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

scarlet fever

an acute communicable disease characterized by fever, strawberry-coloured tongue, and a typical rash starting on the neck and chest and spreading to the abdomen and limbs, caused by all group A haemolytic Streptococcus bacteria
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
A scarlet fever-iGAS household cluster was defined as a household in which a person of any age received a diagnosis of scarlet fever and, within the next 60 days, a different member of the same household received a diagnosis of iGAS infection.
|From left, scarlet fever, gout and measles are among the diseases that have seen significant new admissions to hospitals on Merseyside over the last two years
"Public Health Wales is part of a UK-wide investigation into the causes and implications of the increase in scarlet fever, cases of which increased sharply in 2014 across the UK.
"Scarlet fever used to be a lot more common than it is now, but GPs are noticing more cases than in previous years at the moment.
Earlier in February, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that usually presents with a sore throat, fever, headaches, and a rosy rash that generally starts on a patient's chest.
In the first 13 weeks of the year, 15,549 suspected cases of scarlet fever were reported to PHE across England and Wales - against 7,050 in 2017 and 8,360 in 2016.
"We are monitoring the situation closely and have worked withNHS Choicesto raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever, the importance of good hand hygiene, and also to encourage parents to contact their GP for assessment if they think their child might have scarlet fever."
2009-2010 Hospital admissions RICKETS 675 Gout 6,908 Scarlet fever 381 Syphilis 2,646
From the start of the year up to March 4, 164 suspected cases of scarlet fever were reported to Public Health England (PHE) in west London.
BY MARK SMITH @FlintshireChron CASES of "highly contagious" scarlet fever are continuing to soar in Wales, with more than 90 reported in the past week alone.
She added: "Scarlet fever used b l h i i to be a lot more common than it is now, but GPs are noticing more cases than in previous years."
THERE have been nearly 30 cases of scarlet fever reported in Leicestershire in the last week alone, one-and-a half times as many as last year.