CASES of scarlet fever in Southampton have fallen despite a significant rise in other parts of the country.

More than 3,500 cases, mostly in children, have been reported since September. But, in the city, the number of people suffering the illness is down compared to the previous year.

According to data from Public Health England, since September Southampton has had 14 cases of highly contagious bacterial illness, compared to 21 for the same period last year. This picture is mirrored in Hampshire, where there have been 62 cases – a fall from 105.

Some 3,548 new cases have been recorded in England – more than double the normal number for the season.

The last time it was this high was 1989 to 1990, with 4,042 cases.

In Portsmouth cases have risen from three to eight for the same period and on the Isle of Wight from three to 27.

Scarlet fever is most common between the ages of two and eight and causes a distinctive pink-red rash which feels like sandpaper.

It can be itchy and start in one area, but soon spreads to other parts of the body, such as the ears, neck and chest.

Symptoms include a high temperature, vomiting, a flushed face and a red, swollen tongue and it usually follows a sore throat or skin infection.

It is caught by breathing in bacteria from an infected person’s coughs and sneezes, or through touching their skin.

Sharing contaminated towels, baths, clothes, bedding, cups and utensils can also pass it on. There is no vaccine.