Strep A and scarlet fever

The Department for Education (DfE) is closely monitoring an increase of cases of group A streptococci infections and scarlet fever in children. Schools have been advised on how to manage cases and support parents.

Last reviewed on 8 December 2022
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 41867
  1. What are Strep A and scarlet fever?
  2. Why is there an increase in cases this winter?
  3. What do schools need to do?
  4. What should governing boards do?

What are Strep A and scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria called Group A streptococci (Strep A). The bacteria usually cause a mild infection that can be easily treated with antibiotics.

In very rare occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive Group A strep (iGAS).

Usual symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • A fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel
    • This can be more difficult to see on darker skin, but will still have a sandpapery feel

Why is there an increase in cases this winter?

Although there are more cases of Strep A infection compared to normal at this time of year, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says there's no evidence that this is caused by a new strain.

It's likely to be down to high amounts of circulating bacteria and more social mixing.