Clusters of cases have been reported at schools and nurseries for young children in Antrim, Belfast, Bangor and Craigavon, according to the Public Health Agency (PHA).
Meanwhile, four children have now died in England and Wales from Strep A infections, which can also cause scarlet fever.
The latter condition – which begins with flu-like symptoms, turns into a rash on the chest and stomach before spreading and culminates with a condition known as “strawberry tongue” – is common among young children but can be treated with antibiotics.
Dr David Cromie, health protection consultant at the PHA, said it was not uncommon to see a rise in cases of scarlet fever at this time of year and urged the public: “To limit the spread of scarlet fever, it is also important to practise good hygiene by washing hands with warm water and soap, not sharing drinking glasses or utensils and covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
“People should also stay away from nursery, school or work for 24 hours after taking the first dose of antibiotics.”
Here is a more detailed introduction to the condition.
What is scarlet fever?
Also known as scarlatina, scarlet fever is an infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, which are found on the skin and in the throat.
While it is most common in young children it can affect people of any age, the NHS reports.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of scarlet fever develop within a week of being infected and include a sore throat, headache, high temperature, swollen glands in the neck and being sick.
This can then be followed by a rash that’s made up of pink-red blotches, feel like sandpaper and are brightest in body folds likes armpits or elbows. It will turn white if you press a glass on it.
While the rash doesn’t typically spread to the face, the cheeks can turn very red and look similar to sunburn.
Finally, a white coating may form on the tongue that peels away after a few days, leaving it red and swollen.
This is also known as “strawberry tongue.”
What should you do if you think you or your child has it?
If you suspect that you or you child may have scarlet fever you should see your GP or call NHS 111 as soon as possible.
The usual treatment is with antibiotic tablets (or liquid for young children) to help reduce the length of time the infection is contagious, speed up recovery and reduce the risk of any further problems.