Student at Elk Grove elementary school diagnosed with scarlet fever, parents are told

A student at an Elk Grove school has been diagnosed with scarlet fever, according to a letter from the school principal.

Stone Lake Elementary School on Tuesday sent a letter home with the child’s classmates informing them of the diagnosis.

Scarlet fever is a contagious bacterial infection spread through direct contact with fluid from the nose or throat. It is caused by group A Streptococcus, the same bacteria that causes strep throat, but in scarlet fever, the bacteria release a toxin that produces more pronounced symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Symptoms of scarlet fever include a bright red rash that covers most of the body, a flushed face and strawberry tongue, and is almost always accompanied by a sore throat, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The illness is most common in children 5 to 15 years old, and was once considered a serious childhood illness. If left untreated, scarlet fever can result in a more severe illness that could affect vital organs.

Today, the infection is treated with antibiotics and is less threatening, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Sacramento County Health Department confirmed that scarlet fever is not among illnesses reported to public health departments. County health officials said they do not collect data on the prevalence of scarlet fever among group A streptococcal infections.

According to the letter from Stone Lake Principal Mark Beard, a student diagnosed with scarlet fever can return to school after 24 hours of antibiotic treatment, no fever, along with a physician’s note verifying that the child has been treated.

Elk Grove Unified School District did not issue a statement about the student’s illness. Spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkteron said the district has received no notifications from other areas or other students.

“For student safety and wellness, we do actively promote handwashing (in fact we are already informing schools about the upcoming Global Handwashing Day campaign), we also have many small posters up to ‘Cover Your Cough,’ and we regularly remind parents that if their child has a fever, to keep them home for at least 24 hours after the fever has broken,” Pinkerton said.

In May, an Elk Grove Unified staff member at James McKee Elementary School was diagnosed with meningococcal disease, bacterial infection that can cause bacterial meningitis. While the disease is not highly contagious, the district notified the parents of children in two half-day classes and faculty who may have come in close contact with the staff member before symptoms became apparent.

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Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.