Public Health England (PHE) have released a statement asking parents, schools and GPs to look out for signs of scarlet fever as bouts of the illness hit Essex and Anglia.

Fifty three cases have been noted in the region over the first six week of 2015, with 1,265 new cases being revealed across the country.

While the situation isn’t as bad as last year, when 14,000 cases were reported in England, the number of cases is still higher than expected for the time of year.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said: “As we enter into high season for scarlet fever, we ask GPs and other frontline medical staff to be mindful of the current high levels of scarlet fever activity when assessing patients.

“Prompt notification of cases to local health protection teams is critical to enable local monitoring and rapid response to outbreaks. Schools and nurseries should similarly be mindful of the current elevated levels of scarlet fever and promptly inform local health protection teams at an early stage if they become aware of cases, especially if more than one child is affected.”

The primary symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat and fever, possibly accompanied by nausea, vomiting and/or headaches.

Between 12 and 48 hours later a fine-pink rash appears which feels like sandpaper to touch, looks like sunburn and can be itchy. It often starts on the chest or stomach, and can spread to the ears, neck and other parts of the body.

Other symptoms may include: swollen neck glands, loss of appetite, and a white coating on the tongue, which peels after a few days leaving the tongue red and swollen.

If you suspect anyone in your family may be suffering from scarlet fever, you should contact your GP straight away for treatment to reduce the risk of any complications.