Scarlet fever is a bacterial illness similar to strep throat, but with a skin rash.  Scarlet fever can also lead to rheumatic fever and to other illnesses like pneumonia or infections.  People with scarlet fever may have flushed checks and a red or white ‘strawberry tongue’.

The main symptom of scarlet fever is a red rash that feels rough. It usually begins on your chest, spreading to your neck, abdomen and arms.

Scarlet fever is contagious and is spread from person to person by breathing in airborne droplets from an infected person's coughing or sneezing. Bacteria can also be passed by touching the infected skin of someone with a streptococcal skin infection, or by sharing contaminated clothes, towels or bed linen.

Further information

Further information on scarlet fever is available by visiting the following website.

DermNet New Zealand | Scarlet Fever

Information on rheumatic fever is available on the rheumatic fever page on this website.

Regional Public Health | Rheumatic Fever

Last updated 17 January 2023.