Scarlet Fever Overview & History
Scarlet fever (sometimes referred to as scarlatina) is an infectious disease characterized by fever, sore throat (pharyngitis), and a characteristic rash. Scarlet fever is caused by an infection with group A Streptococcus, the same bacteria responsible for causing "strep throat" and various other skin infections (for example, impetigo and erysipelas). Scarlet fever is predominantly a childhood disease occurring in children 2-10 years of age, though it can less commonly occur in older children and adults. The incidence and mortality rates associated with this once feared disease have significantly decreased due to the introduction and widespread use of antibiotics.
Because it is so contagious, scarlet fever historically has been responsible for devastating epidemics, particularly in the 19th century. In 1923, the husband and wife team of George and Gladys Dick identified the streptococcal bacterium responsible for causing scarlet fever, and shortly thereafter they isolated the toxin responsible for causing the characteristic rash of scarlet fever. This led to the development of a test once used to determine an individual's immunity or susceptibility to scarlet fever and to the development of a patented vaccine. The vaccine is no longer used, as its use was eliminated by the advent of antibiotics.
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