Parents are being warned to look out for symptoms of scarlet fever, as health bosses reveal cases of the 'highly infectious' bacterial illness continue to surge.
Public Health England have confirmed that instances of scarlet fever – which mainly affects children – in Cheshire have risen in recent weeks.
The condition is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria which are found on the skin and in the throat, and while NHS Choices says it is much less common that it was, there have been significant outbreaks in recent years.
A spokeswoman for Public Health England North West said: “We know that cases have increased in Liverpool and across Merseyside and Cheshire in recent weeks.
“If parents can keep an eye out for symptoms, that would be incredibly helpful - it is highly infectious. You can find more information on the NHS Choices website.”
A Health Protection Report published by the agency last month stated that the 'continued elevation' so far this season - 2016/2017 - is 'of concern'.
It said: "Following the substantial elevation in scarlet fever notifications in the last three seasons, indications from the early part of this 2016/17 season continue to show elevated levels with current weekly totals in line with those reported at this point last season.
"This current activity for scarlet fever is similar to last season suggesting that we may be entering a fourth season of elevated activity.
"Whilst some of this elevation may reflect heightened awareness and improved diagnosis and/or notification practices, the high number of cases being currently notified is of concern."
What are the symptoms?
According to NHS Choices, initial symptoms normally include a sore throat, headache, high temperature (38.3C/101F or above), flushed cheeks and a swollen tongue.
Then the distinctive pink-red rash appears within one to two days, usually on the chest and stomach before spreading to other areas of the body like the ears and neck.
How is scarlet fever treated?
It can easily be treated with antibiotics, but it's important to note that patients can still be infectious for 24 hours after treatment has commenced so they should not attend nursery, school or work during this period.
The NHS advises those who think they or their children may have the illness to see their GP for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.