SCHOOLS and nurseries are to be given fresh advice on Scarlet Fever in a bid to curb the growing number of cases in the county.
Nationally, Public Health England has reported a substantial increase in cases, with more than 1,000 confirmed in just one week.
With the highest levels reported in more than 30 years, figures for Staffordshire from September to April show there have been 94 cases – of which eight have been in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Overall in Staffordshire, there has been a 10-fold increase since January compared to 2011.
Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council's cabinet support member for public health, said: "The new guidelines are being issued to schools and nurseries to help control the spread of infection if an outbreak occurs.
"This includes letters to parents and staff detailing what to look out for and the steps to take if Scarlet Fever is suspected, together with a reminder of the importance of good hygiene practice."
Scarlet Fever is mainly a childhood disease and is most common between the ages of two and eight years – the average age of people affected this year is four.
Although once a very dangerous infection, it is now much less serious and can normally be treated with antibiotics.
There is currently no vaccine.
Scarlet Fever is caused by the bacteria streptococcus pyogenes and is characterised by a rash, sore throat, high temperature, swollen tongue and flushed cheeks. It takes around two to five days to develop symptoms after infection.
Dr Alison Teale, public health consultant with Staffordshire County Council, said: "Scarlet Fever is a seasonal illness and Public Health England is investigating to see if there is an underlying cause for this unexpected sharp rise in cases.
"However, it is extremely contagious so can quickly spread in places like nurseries and schools, so we are asking staff and parents to be on the lookout for symptoms such as the rash to help control any outbreaks.
"Anyone who thinks a child has Scarlet Fever should see their GP or contact NHS 111 as soon as possible, and if diagnosed with the illness stay at home for at least 24 hours after being prescribed antibiotics."
Since September there have been 530 identified cases in the West Midlands, with almost a fifth of these in Staffordshire.
This is made up of eight in the Staffordshire Moorlands; Newcastle (five; Cannock (10); Stafford (11); East Staffordshire (28); South Staffordshire (15); Tamworth (five); and Lichfield (12). To reduce the risk of contracting scarlet fever you should: * Wash your hands often; * Not share cutlery; * Dispose of tissues or wash handkerchiefs;
* Be aware is an airborne illness, so can be picked up by infected person coughing near you. Parents should also be aware that there is a small risk of the infection leading to complications including ear infections, throat abscesses, pneumonia and very rarely to more serious conditions potentially affecting the liver, kidneys or heart.