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Sixty seconds on . . . scarlet fever

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i1658 (Published 23 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1658

Isn’t it something from Victorian times?

It was. In the late 1880s and early 1900s scarlet fever was the leading cause of death in children, sometimes wiping out all of a family’s children in a matter of weeks. But incidence fell dramatically through the 20th century.

Why the drop-off?

No one knows for sure. But less crowded living conditions, pasteurised milk, the demise of workhouses, and the establishment of the NHS probably all helped. Penicillin …

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