Seeing red

by Sara Heim

Being sick is nothing new to college students, but when freshman Kasie Erb woke up with a swollen face and covered in a rash, she knew that this was no typical illness.

“My first thought was that I was breaking out,” Erb said. “It looked like I was really sunburned.”

After the rash had spread to her neck, back, legs and chest, Erb realized she needed to see a doctor. She was diagnosed with scarlet fever.

Scarlet fever is a disease caused by an infection with streptococcal bacteria, the same bacteria that causes strep throat.

The hospital made Erb call Simpson to inform the school of the illness.

Erb, her roommate Nicole Rose and fellow Picken residents Stephanie Reagan and Libby Switzer were put on antibiotics and given face masks from the hospital.

The hospital instructed the four women to quarantine themselves for 48 hours.

Once the administration was informed of the situation, they went to see Simpson nurse Michelle Cross, and asked her to follow up on the ill student.

According to Cross, who contacted public health to double check, this illness isn’t a major problem. She said there was no need for the four students to be quarantined.

“The rash develops in fewer than 10 percent of cases of strep throat,” Cross said.

Scarlet fever is easily treatable with antibiotics – the same treatment as for strep throat.

However, any person diagnosed with a streptococcal infection must take antibiotics for 24 hours before they are no longer considered contagious.

No antibiotic treatment is needed for people who have contact with the ill person unless they begin to experience symptoms.

“My kids had strep last week,” Cross said. “They were on antibiotics for 18-24 hours and ready to go back to school.”

Erb had to spend four days at home to recover, but she didn’t mind.

“I was really tired and wanted to sleep all of the time,” Erb said. “So, I got to sit home and watch movies for about four days.”

Cross said she tried to contact the other students to tell them they had received erroneous information and didn’t have to quarantine themselves, but she never received a response. Cross said the other students had only strep throat.

According to Cross, college students are a very low-risk group for scarlet fever.

“It’s a pretty rare thing,” Cross said. “If all we get is scarlet fever, that’s good because we have treatment for that.”

The college sent out e-mails to inform students of the case of scarlet fever on campus and to quell rumors that it was contagious.