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Scarlet Fever Breaks Out Overseas

An outbreak of scarlet fever in Hong Kong has health officials there scrambling to prevent the disease's spread. Reuters reports that 400 cases of scarlet fever were reported this year in Hong Kong, with two child fatalities within the past week.

While cases of the disease -- a streptococcal (strep) bacteria like the one that causes strep throat – are not uncommon in Hong Kong, the unusual frequency of cases is leading scientists to believe the cause might be a genetic mutation.

Scarlet fever can affect people of any age, but is most common in children ages two to 10. Its most noticeable symptom is a sandpapery, red rash that often forms on the chest or abdomen some 24 hours after the onset of fever. The rash often spreads over the rest of the body within one to two days and usually fades in about a week, when skin begins to peel.

In order to protect yourself and your children from scarlet fever, the Mayo Clinic offers the following suggestions:

Wash your hands with warm soapy water;

Don't share dining utensils or food;

Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing in order to prevent the potential spread of germs.

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