Scarlet Fever Fatalities Terrify Parents

Jacqueline Burt Cote

scarlet fever kidColor me terrified: Scarlet fever is back, and two kids have died from a massive outbreak in China. As a parent, I'd put scarlet fever on the back burner of worries, so to speak: Isn't that the disease that made Mary Ingalls blind in Little House on the Prairie? Oh well, nobody gets that anymore. But not only is scarlet fever back, the bacteria has apparently genetically mutated -- the new super-powered version spreads more easily and appears to be resistant to antibiotics. Usually, scarlet fever is, or has been, treatable. Severe cases, however, can lead to pneumonia, middle ear infection, heart disease, and death.

So what to do, as a parent? I have to say if my family had any plans to travel to China in the near future, I'd probably err on the side of caution and cancel our trip. Still, we live in the tri-state area, where people travel internationally all the time, so I know keeping my kids in this country is no guarantee.

Scarlet fever, characterized by a sandpaper-like red rash, is caused by group A streptococci, the same bacteria that causes strep throat. If you have kids in daycare, preschool, or any other type of school, you know how rapidly strep can jump from child to child, especially since the only ways to prevent the spread of strep are covering one's mouth when coughing or sneezing and washing one's hands frequently (yeah, little kids are great about that stuff).

Back to me being terrified. A couple of years ago my daughter caught viral pneumonia from a classmate and spent several days in the hospital. I will never forget the utter helplessness of watching my child suffer and go through test after test when, ultimately, the doctors couldn't do much to make her better -- the virus had to run its course. I thank God she turned the corner, and my heart absolutely breaks for the parents in China who've lost their children to what we thought was a treatable disease. Having kids is flat-out scary sometimes.

Are you worried about the scarlet fever outbreak?


Image via originallittlehellraiser/Flickr

Read More