CASES of scarlet fever in Worcestershire have quadrupled in the past four years.

A report by Public Health England showed there were six cases of the disease in the county in the first quarter of 2011, but this almost tripled to 17 in the same period 12 months later.

Cases dropped to 10 from January to March 2013 but rocketed again to 24 in the first three months of this year.

Worcester saw the greatest increase, with no cases in the first 13 weeks of 2011, just one in the same period in 2012, four in 2013 and seven in 2014.

There were three cases reported in the Wychavon area in from January to March in 2011, 10 in the same period in 2012, two in 2013 and six in 2014.

People in Malvern Hills district were largely spared with the only two cases reported in the first three months of the past four years being diagnosed this year.

Across England the amount of cases has more than quadrupled in the first quarters of the past four years from 1,016 in 2011 to 4,157 in the same period this year.

Scarlet fever – also known as scarlatine – is caused by a bacteria called group A streotococcus which is found on the skin or in the throat.

Symptoms include a sandpaper-like rash, sore throat, fever, vomiting, swollen tongue and neck glands and flushed cheeks and is often confused with measles.

Children aged between two and eight are most at risk but adults are also susceptible.

It is highly contagious and is spread by sneezing, coughing and breathing out as well through direct contact with an infected person’s saliva or mucus. It can also be caught by sharing drinking glasses, plates or utensils and usually takes between two and five days to develop after infection.

It is most common in the winter and the spring and is easily treated with a ten-day course of antibiotics.

Public Health England’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance Dr Theresa Lamagni said the organisation worked closely with healthcare workers to stop the spread of infection.

“Symptoms usually clear up after a week and in the majority of cases remain reasonably mild providing a course of antibiotics is completed to reduce the risk of complications,” she said.

“Children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection.”

Anyone who thinks they or their child is suffering from scarlet fever should contact their GP or NHS 111 out of hours.