Scarlet fever strikes
Case confirmed in Deh Cho

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Feb 28/00) - One individual in the Deh Cho contracted scarlet fever last week and as of Friday, five others were suspected to have been infected with the bacteria.

The confirmed case, an 11-year-old girl from the Jean Marie River area, was taken to Yellowknife's Stanton Regional Hospital. A nine-year-old girl from Fort Simpson, suspected to have come down with the illness, was also medevaced to Yellowknife for treatment.

Sheila Sears, manager of nurses for Deh Cho Health and Social Services, said those suspected to have scarlet fever and those in direct contact with them, such as household family members, have been placed on an antibiotics program. The schools and parents in Fort Simpson and Jean Marie River had been notified of the illness, according to Sears.

Scarlet fever, a streptococcus A bacterium, is manifested through a high fever, a sore throat, a red "sandpaper" rash on the neck, chest, abdomen and groin areas. Another common symptom is a very red tongue with white dots, known as "strawberry tongue."

The illness should be treated early with antibiotics. Left unchecked, it can lead to complications such as kidney problems up to one month after the initial throat infection. In extreme circumstances, can be fatal due to resulting kidney disease complications, Sears acknowledged. She emphasized that this is not meningitis, which has broken out in the Edmonton area.

Scarlet fever can be transferred through direct contact with secretions from the nose and throat of infected persons, or by actions such as sharing a glass, she said. However, just being in the same room isn't cause for concern, she added.

"Certainly, it's not (contagious) through breathing or anything like that," she said. Those with chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and kidney disease are more susceptible to the illness. Those with cuts or wounds on the skin are also at higher risk. Frequent hand-washing, particularly after coughing or sneezing and prior to eating, is recommended.

The origin of the bacteria in this situation is unknown, according to Sears.

"None of these kids, as far as we know, had travelled, so we're not sure," she said. "That's why we're swabbing everybody because there may be an asymptomatic case somewhere, a carrier. They (the doctor and nurses) got into school pretty quickly and swabbed people, so they got it under control pretty quickly, treating anybody who might even have any remote possibility of having it."

Terry Jaffray, principal of Bompas elementary school, said attendance dropped at school late last week as some parents were keeping their children home to lessen their risk of exposure.

Jaffray added that the Deh Cho's doctor visited the school and explained the symptoms and effects of Scarlet Fever to school staff, letting them know what to watch for. Children at Louie Norwegian school in Jean Marie River also received check-ups Friday.

Fort Simpson's Carl and Millie Lafferty decided to keep their two children home from school "just to be on the safe side," Carl said.

"Whether they've been in contact (with the bacteria) or not, I don't know," he said.