11/03/2014 10:10 GMT | Updated 11/03/2014 10:59 GMT

Scarlet Fever Cases At 24-Year High: Here's How To Spot The Symptoms

The number of cases of scarlet fever has reached a 24-year high, public health experts have warned.

There have been 868 reported cases in the first eight weeks of 2014 - which is almost double the average number of recorded cases over the past four years (444).

Health officials note that the figure is the highest for this time of year since 1990.

Symptoms include sore throat, headache and a high temperature (fever), with a pink-red rash developing 12 to 48 hours later, according to the NHS website.

scarlet fever

Other symptoms may include swollen neck glands, loss of appetite, nausea, red lines in the folds of the body, a white coating on the tongue or generally feeling unwell.

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Scarlet fever is extremely contagious and can be caught by anyone, but it usually affects children between two and eight years old.

It is more common in colder months as it can be spread from breathing in bacteria from an infected person's coughs or sneezes.

It can also spread through touching infected skin or sharing contaminated towels, baths, clothes or bed linen.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE's head of streptococcal infection surveillance said: "We will continue to closely monitor these increases and work with healthcare professionals to try and halt the spread of infection."

If you recognise any of these symptoms, please contact your GP.