HEALTH experts are urging parents to be aware of scarlet fever symptoms as the North West is revealed to have the country's highest rate of infection.

The warning, issued by Public Health England follows the revelation that region has experienced 54 cases per 100,000 people, the highest rate in England, according to their latest Health Protection Report, published on Friday.

The report also showed that there has been a substantial rise in reported cases across England in 2017 and 2018, with almost 90 per cent of cases occurring in children under 10.

In Bury there have been 13 reported cases of scarlet fever over the last four weeks, up to April 8, according to weekly Notifications of Infectious Diseases reports.

However, the Health Protection Report added that there has been a decline in noted cases in recent weeks, indicating that the peak of scarlet fever season may have been passed.

But the number of reported cases remains higher than that of the same period over the past four years.

Dr Caroline Rumble, Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health England North West, said: “We are urging parents to look out for the symptoms of scarlet fever such as sore throat, fever and a rash after seeing a significant increase in cases this year.

"The good news is that we have seen a slight decline in cases recently across the North West, which may indicate that activity has peaked.

"Scarlet fever, which most commonly affects young children, is not usually a serious illness and can be treated with the appropriate antibiotics to reduce the risk of complications and spread to others.

"We encourage parents to contact their GP or NHS 111 if they spot symptoms of scarlet fever or have concerns."

The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a temperature of 38 degrees C or above, and swollen neck glands.

A pink-red rash typically appears a few days later on the chest and tummy, and cheeks can be flushed.

A white coating may also appear on the tongue, which peels leaving it red and swollen.

The seasonal bacterial infection is highly contagious, but easily treatable with antibiotics.

Early treatment is important and can help reduce risk of complications, such as pneumonia.

Symptoms are the same for children and adults and you should contact your GP if they appear.

Nick Phin, Deputy Director at Public Health England, said: "It’s not uncommon to see a rise in cases of scarlet fever at this time of year.

"We are monitoring the situation closely and remind parents to be aware of the symptoms of scarlet fever and to contact their GP for assessment if they think their child might have it.

"Whilst there has been a notable increase in scarlet fever cases when compared to last season, greater awareness and improved reporting practices may have contributed to this increase."

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, added: “Scarlet fever used to be a lot more common than it is now, but GPs are noticing more cases than in previous years at the moment. If a patient thinks that they, or their child, might have symptoms, they should seek medical assistance.”

For further information on scarlet fever visit the NHS Choices website.