YOUNG children at a Runcorn school have been diagnosed with the rare bacterial illness scarlet fever.

Two cases has been confirmed at St Clement’s RC Primary School in Oxford Road though it is feared more youngsters may now have contracted the disease.

The school is open as usual and parents are being advised to take their children to the doctors if they show any symptoms.

Scarlet fever is highly infectious and causes a distinctive pink-red rash.

Public Health England has confirmed it has been notified of a couple of cases at St Clement’s and is working in partnership with Halton Council.

Dr Richard Jarvis, from the Cheshire and Merseyside Public Health England Centre, said: “Scarlet Fever is a common disease that doesn’t usually cause major illness.

“However, as it is a very contagious disease, we’d urge parents with children that are showing symptoms to see their GP and obtain treatment.

“Most mild cases of Scarlet Fever will clear up on their own, but having antibiotic treatment can speed recovery and reduce the risk of complications.”

It is caused by bacteria that is often found in the throat and on the skin.

It can be spread by coughing and sneezing and is characterised by a rash, which usually accompanies a very sore red throat and a fever.

The school said it was informed of the first case on Monday.

A spokesman for St Clement’s said: “We are following the advice of the Health Protection Agency. We have only been told of two cases but other children may have been diagnosed and parents haven’t told us.

“We will be sending letters to parents.”

People can protect themselves by washing their hands frequently and not sharing eating utensils, clothes, bedding or towels with an infected person.

Contaminated handkerchiefs and tissues should be washed or thrown away immediately.

A Halton Council spokesman said: ”We are working with the Public Health England to give the school and parents advice on how best to protect their children and help stop the illness spreading.”

Scarlet fever symptoms can also include nausea, a loss of appetite, itching, headache, vomiting, stomach ache, swollen neck glands, difficulty swallowing and a white coating on the tongue.

Children aged five to 15 have a higher risk of developing the condition compared to other people.

Parents are advised to ensure their children complete any course of prescribed antibiotics.

Confirmed cases must be reported to local health authorities.

Doctors say scarlet fever is rare these days, mainly because of modern antibiotics.