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Hong Kong Strain of Scarlet Fever Unlikely to Spread to U.S., Experts Say
Date:6/30/2011

ur children do the same, and make sure that in the day-care setting, all toys, especially those that children may place in their mouths, are cleaned and disinfected regularly," Hirsch said.

"Group A strep most commonly causes a sore or strep throat and/or some skin infections," said Dr. Sheldon Kaplan, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of the infectious disease service at Texas Children's Hospital, both in Houston.

"A lot of kids in the U.S. get scarlet fever, but this Hong Kong strain is being spread more readily, and there seems to be a high rate of resistance to two commonly used antibiotics," he said.

"It could be introduced in U.S., but we have to wait and see," Kaplan said. "I haven't heard of an increase in the number of cases in our area or any discussion on infectious disease websites or blogs. It bears watching, but I don't think people need to be alarmed or think that their child will get a terrible case of scarlet fever."

Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center, is still more optimistic that the illness won't cross our borders. He said this mutant strain of scarlet fever is related to some unique circumstances in China, including vaccination policies.

The childhood vaccination rates in China are not as high as those in the United States, he explained. One of the children who died in Hong Kong was infected with both chicken pox and scarlet fever, which can develop as a secondary infection after chicken pox.

In the United States, the chickenpox or varicella vaccine is recommended for all children under the age of 13 who have not had chickenpox, and all adolescents and adults who have not been vaccinated or had chickenpox.

"When you have a secondary infection, the chicken pox lesions are weeping with pus or the child gets high fevers, both of which is the signal that's something is the matter," Tierno said. "In
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