THE bug that causes scarlet fever is on the increase in Bolton, according to health chiefs.

The number of cases of scarlet fever has increased in line with the national trend but Bolton has not been identified as a hotspot.

Scarlet fever is a seasonal, infectious disease which typically rises between December and April each year.

There were 24 cases between January and March in Bolton compared to 21 cases during the same period in 2013.

Symptoms include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea and a rash, which can be treated with antibiotics.

Dr Susan Glass, a consultant paediatrician at the Royal Bolton Hospital, says there has been an increase in the bug called Group A streptococcus bacterium.

Dr Glass added: “There has been a nationwide increase in scarlet fever and we have seen more cases of the bug which initially causes it.

"There is definitely a lot more of it around than you would expect normally but the number of notifiable cases recorded by GP’s does not indicate that Bolton is a hotspot.

“It is contagious but it can treated quickly with antibiotics.

"If a person or their child displays the symptoms our advice would be to get to their GP as soon as possible and if the case is confirmed, stay for the first 24 hours to prevent spreading the infection to other people.”

Public Health England (PHE) has reported a total of 3,548 new cases since the season began in September 2013 — compared to an average of 1,420 cases in the same period in the past 10 years.

There is often a cycle of increases and decreases of scarlet fever that repeats every few years.

Experts say the most recent increase is likely to be part of that cycle.

A council spokesman said: “There was a recent increase in the number of cases of scarlet fever reported during March, which seems to reflect the national trend.

“Seasonally, there can be an increase between December and April and since the start of 2014, we’ve had 24 reported cases. However, numbers seem to be declining once again as the season comes to a close.”

The last time cases of scarlet fever shot up nationally was in 1989 when there were 4042 cases in a year.

Scarlet fever is mainly a childhood disease and is most common between the ages of two and eight years. It was once a very dangerous infection but is now less serious.

There is currently no vaccine for scarlet fever.