The return of scarlet fever

Cases in Britain rise by 50 per cent in just a year

Government advisers are to review crucial defences against some of Britain's "forgotten" diseases after doctors reported steep rises in the number of people suffering from scarlet fever and whooping cough.

Ministers have ordered their medical experts to resurrect a proposal to introduce a "booster" vaccine for whooping cough (pertussis) following the disclosure that incidents of the potentially fatal illness had nearly doubled in a year.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will now reconsider whether to offer older children protection against the disease.

Doctors and hospitals have also been put on alert for outbreaks of scarlet fever, an infection once feared for causing epidemics that killed thousands of people throughout Europe 200 years ago.

The action was sparked after the latest official figures revealed that new scarlet fever cases in the UK had soared close to 3,000 last year – a rise of 50 per cent on the results for 2007.

Health officials last night attempted to play down the significance of the increases, blaming them on "cyclical" changes in infection patterns. However, one of Britain's top microbiologists said that the figures gave a disturbing insight into the continued vulnerability of the population, despite the success in reducing rates of measles, mumps and rubella after the MMR vaccine scare.

Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said the figures could also demonstrate that the country was still struggling with the legacy of a loss of faith in the whooping cough vaccine more than 30 years ago. He said: "There was a claim that the vaccine could cause problems and many people boycotted it. If that happens, the bug can always come back with a vengeance.

"We have a different vaccine now, but this increase in infections suggests more people, not just pre-school children, should be taking it."

Dr Richard Jarvis, chairman of the British Medical Association's public health committee, said: "The vaccine works very well, but its effectiveness wanes over time."

Scottish doctors last year urged parents of newborns to have them vaccinated against whooping cough. A team from Edinburgh called for the change in vaccination policy after two babies at their hospital died from the disease. Children are currently vaccinated at two, three and four months and again before they start school. But immunity is not lifelong and older teenagers and adults are still susceptible to the disease.

It emerged that the JCVI had considered extending the whooping cough vaccination programme 18 months ago, but rejected the proposal because they decided that infection rates were not high enough to justify the change.

Minutes from a JCVI meeting in October 2007 declare that: "The ... data gave no indication of an emerging public health problem ... Pertussis rates have continued to go down following the introduction of the pre-school booster ..."

However, it has now emerged that whooping cough notifications rose from 539 in 2006 to more than 1,000 the following year.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine