CDC issues warning over scarlet fever outbreak in China

PREVENTION::With more than 20,000 reported cases, health officials advised travelers to wash their hands frequently and avoid crowded areas

By Shelley Huang  /  Staff Reporter

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 - Page 2

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday warned travelers to China and Hong Kong about an outbreak of scarlet fever, which has infected thousands of people and was expected to continue to spread over the summer.

The CDC said that as of yesterday, there have been 21,269 reported cases of scarlet fever in China this year, about 3.6 times as many as the same period last year. There were 9,308 new cases last month, or 4.1 times as many as the 2,269 cases reported a year ago.

Hong Kong has reported 466 cases this year, with two deaths — a seven-year-old girl last month and a five-year-old boy on Tuesday. Macau has reported 49 cases.

The CDC said the number of reported cases of scarlet fever in the region is two to three times the normal range and the number of cases so far in the outbreak is greater than the annual number reported over the past 10 years.

Health officials said travelers to Hong Kong, Macau and China should wash their hands frequently and avoid visiting places with little or no fresh air.

Those who have been diagnosed with scarlet fever and received medical treatment should avoid going to public places such as schools or workplaces until 24 hours after the fever has subsided, they said.

Scarlet fever symptoms include a bright red rash, fever, sore throat and a “strawberry-colored” tongue. The disease mainly affects children between the ages of two and eight. Symptoms usually subside within 48 hours with treatment of appropriate antibiotics.

However, the new strain has about 60 percent resistance to antibiotics used to treat it, compared with 10 percent to 30 percent in previous strains, Yuen Kwok-yung, head of Hong Kong University’s microbiology department, said yesterday in Hong Kong.

Certain characteristics of the new strain likely make it more easily transmitted, he said.

Additional reporting by AFP and AP